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Carbon concentration and isotope composition of black carbon in the topsoil of the central and southeastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, and their environmental significance

Liu, Lian, Li, Quan, Huang, Min, Yang, Yan
Catena 2019 v.172 pp. 132-139
altitude, biomass, burning, climate, fire history, fire season, fossil fuels, fuel combustion, isotope fractionation, isotopes, soil organic carbon, topsoil, vegetation, China
The carbon concentration and carbon isotope of black carbon (BC) have been widely used to reconstruct fire history and vegetation change. In order to establish the relationship between BC, contemporary vegetation and climate at the high altitudes of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP), we investigated the carbon concentration and carbon isotope composition of BC and soil organic carbon (SOC) (%BC, %SOC, δ13CBC and δ13CSOC) in 29 topsoil samples from the central and southeastern QTP. In general, the %SOC and %BC of topsoil show generally similar variations, indicating a common controlling factor for SOC and BC production, i.e., vegetation. The relatively small BC/SOC ratios fall in the range of BC/OC for pyrogenic particles from biomass burning, indicating a minor contribution of BC from fossil fuel combustion. The δ13CSOC of topsoil can effectively indicate local vegetation in the QTP. The δ13CBC and δ13CSOC are positively correlated, whereas the δ13CBC values are more negative than those of δ13CSOC. This could due to fire season and fractionation processes during post-deposition, but not carbon isotope fractionation during combustion or exogenous BC input. Therefore, BC in topsoil of the QTP mainly records ‘local’ environmental information, and the δ13CBC can be used in paleovegetation reconstruction in combination with the local climate.