Timing and Nature of Appearance of C4 Plants in the Indian Subcontinent: Clue from Isotopic Ratios of Biomarker

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Prasanta Sanyal, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, Kolkata, India
Appearance and expansion of C4 plants during the late Miocene was first documented from Siwalik Group of sediments using carbon isotope ratio of soil carbonates. It was proposed that C4 plants appeared drastically in response to change in hydrological cycle. Subsequently, various workers documented evolution and expansion of C4 plants from different Siwalik sections of India, Nepal and Pakistan. Although evolution and expansion of C4 plants was documented in all these studies but nature and timing of expansion of C4 plants showed variations from section to sections. Even from same section, the results varied with change in proxies. The hydrological changes also differ regionally. One of the reasons of differences in results was lack of modern data set from the Indian subcontinent. For example, in many cases δ18O values of New Delhi rainwater has been considered as reference data set and applied to site of investigation with some corrections. The average δ13C values of C3 and C4 plants was considered as -27‰ and -12.5‰ respectively, but modern C3 plants in the Gangetic plain is almost 2.5‰ lower than the value used in those studies. Additional problem raised as preservation of pristine isotopic character of soil organic matter is also apprehensive. To resolve all these issues, the δ13C value of long chain alkane have been used to reconstruct C3-C4 plants after isotopic characterization of modern plants and their biomarker from the Gangetic plain which is equivalent to the past Siwalik flood plain. Additionally, δD values of long chain alkane were also measured. Variations of d13C values of long chain alkane with time show presence of C4 plants in Siwalik from 11 Ma ago and since then gradual increase in C4 plants till 6 Ma followed by a sharp increase. The statistically significant correlation between δD and δ13C values of long chain alkane show that positive impact of hydrological change on abundance of C3-C4 plants.