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Differential Hydrogen Isotopic Ratios of Sphagnum and Vascular Plant Biomarkers in Ombrotrophic Peatlands as a Quantitative Proxy for Precipitation-Evaporation Balance

Nichols, J.
Booth, R. K.
Jackson, Stephen T.
Pendall, Elise
Huang, Y. S.
We have developed a new approach to quantitatively reconstruct past changes in evaporation based on compound-specific hydrogen isotope ratios of vascular plant and Sphagnum biomarkers in ombrotrophic peatland sediments. We show that the contrast in H isotopic ratios of water available to living Sphagnum (top 20 cm) and in the rooting zone of peatland vascular plants can be used to estimate "f"-the fraction of water remaining after evaporation. Vascular plant leaf waxes record H isotopic ratios of acrotelm water, which carries the D/H ratio signature of precipitation and is little affected by evaporation, whereas the Sphagnum biomarker, C23 n-alkane, records H isotopic ratios of the water inside its cells and between its leaves, which is strongly affected by evaporation at the: bog surface. Evaporation changes can then be deduced by comparing H isotopic ratios of the two types of biomarkers. We calibrated D/H ratios of C23 n-alkane to source water with lab-grown Sphagnum. We also tested our isotopic model using modern surface samples from 18 ombrotrophic peatlands in the Midwestern United States. Finally, we generated a 3000-year downcore reconstruction from Minden Bog, Michigan, USA. Our new record is consistent with records of other parameters from the same peatland derived from different proxies and allows us to differentiate precipitation supply and evaporative loss.
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