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Abnormal positive δ¹³C values of carbonate in Lake Caohai, southwest China, and their possible relation to lower temperature

Zhu, Zhengjie, Chen, Jing'an, Zeng, Yan
Quaternary international 2013 v.286 pp. 85-93
bacteria, carbon, carbon dioxide, carbonates, cellulose, cold, drought, isotope fractionation, lakes, methane, organic matter, oxygen, sediments, stable isotopes, surface water, temperature, China
Carbon source inputs, CO₂ exchange between atmosphere and lake water, as well as lacustrine productivity are commonly served as the main controls on δ¹³C values of authigenic carbonates in lake sediments. Generally, δ¹³C values of recent carbonates in most lakes are lower than +5‰ (all values reported here with respect to the PDB standard), and rather few reach up to +13‰. Extreme positive δ¹³C values up to +23.10‰ are reported in authigenic carbonate in Lake Caohai, southwest China, and some δ¹³C values are the most positive values in the previously reported surface water carbonate δ¹³C values in lakes. Simultaneously, there are two intervals of large carbonate ¹³C enrichment during the past 500 years, namely 1670–1714 AD and 1788–1881 AD. On the basis of combination with the oxygen isotopic composition of carbonate and Drought/Flood index proxies (D/F), carbon source inputs, CO₂ exchange between atmosphere and lake water can not cause this extreme carbonate ¹³C enrichment. In addition, the inconsistent between organic matter content and δ¹³C values of carbonate, lower organic matter δ¹³C values, as well as the weak/negative correlation between δ¹³C values of organic matter and carbonate during these two intervals confirmed that lacustrine productivity is also not the dominant factor that controls abnormal positive carbonate δ¹³C values. Temperature variations in Lake Caohai during the past 500 years were reconstructed from co-analysis of δ¹⁸O values of carbonate and organic matter cellulose, and periods of abnormal positive δ¹³C values of carbonate correspond well with the lower temperature periods. The 1670–1714 AD and 1788–1881 AD cold periods were synchronous with the coldest intervals of Little Ice Age (LIA), and also consistent with the Maunder and Dalton sunspot minimum, respectively. Considering these geochemical data together, although there is no direct effect between temperature and carbonate δ¹³C values, the lower temperature restrains the degradation of organic matter, and bacteria have the chance to participate the carbon isotopic fractionation of organic matter, thus generating the methane (CH₄) gas, which has the extreme lower δ¹³C values up to −60‰, resulting in the extreme enrichment ¹³C in carbonates due to the preferential synthesis of ¹²CH₄. The important inputs of bacteria to sedimentary sequence during the periods of 1670–1714 AD and 1788–1881 AD have been further verified by the carbon isotopic fractionation between carbonate and organic matter. Therefore, this mechanism may be responsible for abnormal positive δ¹³C values in Lake Caohai. Abnormal positive δ¹³C values of carbonate in Lake Caohai may be indirectly ascribed to the lower temperature, and more attention should be paid to the carbon isotopic composition of carbonates in Lake Caohai in future research. Particular factors affecting carbonate carbon isotopic composition should be taken into account in order to avoid misinterpreting palaeoclimatic reconstructions.