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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-5
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-5
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 15 Jan 2019

Research article | 15 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Lignin oxidation products as a vegetation proxy in stalagmite and drip water samples from the Herbstlabyrinth, Germany

Inken Heidke1, Denis Scholz2, and Thorsten Hoffmann1 Inken Heidke et al.
  • 1Institute of Inorganic Chemistry and Analytical Chemistry, Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz, Duesbergweg 10-14, 55128 Mainz, Germany
  • 2Institute of Geosciences, Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz, J.-J.-Becher-Weg 21, 55128 Mainz, Germany

Abstract. Here we present the first quantitative record of lignin oxidation products (LOPs) in a Holocene stalagmite from the Herbstlabyrinth Cave in central Germany, as well as LOP results from 16 months of drip water monitoring. Lignin is only produced by vascular plants and is therefore an unambiguous vegetation proxy, which can help to better interpret other vegetation and climate proxies in speleothems. We compared our results with stable isotope and trace element data from the same samples. The drip water monitoring reveals a seasonal pattern of LOPs in a fast drip site with low LOP concentrations in winter and higher LOP concentrations in summer, which is opposite to the behaviour of the drip rate, Mg2+ and PO3−4 concentrations. In the stalagmite, LOP concentrations are correlated or show a similar behaviour to P, Ba and U concentrations. The LOP ratios C/V and S/V, which are usually used to differentiate between angiosperm and gymnosperm and woody and non-woody lignin sources, are anticorrelated to the LOP concentrations and show a similar behaviour to δ13C and Mg concentrations. These results highlight the potential of LOPs as a new, highly specific vegetation proxy in speleothems, but also demonstrate current limitations in our understanding of the transport of lignin from the soil into the cave and the speleothems.

Inken Heidke et al.
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Short summary
This is the first quantitative study of lignin biomarkers in stalagmites and cave drip water. Lignin is only produced by higher plants, therefore its analysis can be used to reconstruct the vegetation of the past. We compared our lignin results with stable isotope and trace element records from the same samples and found correlations or similarities with P, Ba, U and Mg concentrations as well as δ13C values. These results can help to better interpret other vegetation proxies.
This is the first quantitative study of lignin biomarkers in stalagmites and cave drip water....
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