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Journal Article

Stable isotopes and trace elements in modern ostracod shells: implications for reconstructing past environments on the Tibetan Plateau, China


Jochum,  K. P.
Climate Geochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Börner, N., De Baere, B., Akita, L. G., Francois, R., Jochum, K. P., Frenzel, P., et al. (2017). Stable isotopes and trace elements in modern ostracod shells: implications for reconstructing past environments on the Tibetan Plateau, China. Journal of Paleolimnology, 58(2), 191-211. doi:10.1007/s10933-017-9971-1.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002D-A330-5
Stable isotopes and trace elements in ostracod shells have been used widely in paleolimnological investigations of past lake hydrochemistry and climate because they provide insights into past water balance and solute evolution of lakes. Regional differences in lake characteristics and species-specific element fractionation, however, do not permit generalization of results from other regions or ostracod species to the southern Tibetan Plateau, in part because most common taxa from the southern Tibetan Plateau are endemic to the area. This study evaluated relations between present-day environmental conditions and the geochemical composition of modern ostracod shells from the southern Tibetan Plateau, to assess the suitability of using shell chemistry to infer hydrological conditions. We studied nine lakes and their catchments, located along a west–east transect in the south-central part of the Tibetan Plateau. Stable oxygen and carbon isotope values and trace element concentrations in recent shells from the four most abundant ostracod species (Leucocytherella sinensis, ?Leucocythere dorsotuberosa, Limnocythere inopinata, Tonnacypris gyirongensis) were measured, together with hydrochemical properties of host waters at the time of sampling. Results revealed significant between-species differences in stable isotope fractionation and trace element incorporation into shell calcite. Stable oxygen and carbon isotope values of ostracod shells were correlated significantly with the stable isotope composition of the respective water body (δ18OH2Oand δ13CH2O), reflecting salinity and productivity, respectively. Offsets between δ18Oshell and δ13Cshell and inorganic calcite, the latter representing isotopic equilibrium, suggest shell formation of T. gyirongensis during spring melt. L. sinensis reproduces throughout the monsoon season until September and shows several consecutive generations, and L. inopinata molts to the adult stage after the monsoon season in August/September. The influence of pore water δ13C was displayed by L. inopinata, suggesting shell calcification within the sediment. Mg/Cashell is primarily influenced by water Mg/Ca ratios and salinity and confirms the use of this shell ratio as a proxy for precipitation-evaporation balance and lake level. In addition, Sr/Ca and Ba/Ca can be used to infer changes in salinity, at least in closed-basin lakes with calcite saturation. Observed effects of water Sr/Ca and salinity on Sr/Ca incorporation are biased by the presence of aragonite precipitation in the lakes, which removes bioavailable Sr from the host water, resulting in low Sr/Cashell values. Changes in carbonate mineralogy affect the bioavailability of trace elements, a process that should be considered in paleoclimate reconstructions. Oxygen isotopes and Mg/Cashell ratios were unaffected by water temperature. Positive correlations among Fe/Ca, Mn/Ca and U/Ca in ostracod shells, and their negative correlation with δ13C, which reflects organic matter decay, show the potential to infer changes in redox conditions that can be used to reconstruct past oxygen supply to bottom waters and thus past water-circulation changes within lakes. The intensity of microbial activity, associated with organic matter decomposition, can be inferred from U/Ca ratios in ostracod shells. These findings highlight the value of fossil ostracod records in lake deposits for inferring paleoenvironmental conditions on the southern Tibetan Plateau.