The next chapter of direct phytolith 14C dating: debunking the myth of occluded photosynthetic carbon exclusivity

Friday, 19 December 2014
Guaciara Santos1, Araks Harutyunyan1, Anne E Alexandre2, Paul E Reyerson1,3, Kimberley L. Gallagher1 and Isabelle Basile-Doelsch2, (1)University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States, (2)CEREGE, CNRS-Aix-Marseille Université, Aix en Provence, France, (3)University of Wisconsin La Crosse, La Crosse, WI, United States
Radiocarbon dating of carbon (C) encapsulated in phytoliths (phytC) is currently used in many Earth Science disciplines for absolute chronologies and paleoclimatic reconstructions; however, the usefulness of phytC has been hampered by inadequate extraction methods[1] and uncertainties regarding its origin as purely photosynthetic [2,3,4]. An early investigation measuring isotopes from Gramineae spp. grown in free-air C enrichment experiments (FACE), showed that part of of its phytC is from a non-photosynthetic source, thus indicating a dual origin[5]. To demonstrate that non-photosynthetic sources within phytC could be from soil C stocks, we measured 14C-AMS phytC extracted from a set of Sorghum bicolor growing on known 14C and d13C bulk substrates and hydroponic solutions. The phytolith concentrates and a silica blank were extracted at UCI, CEREGE and Wisconsin using an improved protocol [1,2]. We also measured CO2 fluxes and isotopic signatures of microbial respiration, percentage of biomass and phytolith extracts produced, and isotopic signatures of the local air and bulk-plant during the growing season of 2012. This allowed comparison of the belowground substrate and nutrient C contributions to phytC 14C results. Meanwhile, NanoSIMS analyses of phytolith polished sections was used to locate phytC in the phytolith siliceous structure [6]. These results will be shown and discussed.

[1] Corbineau et al. 2013 R. Paleobot. Palyn. 197: 179

[2] Santos et al. 2010 T. Radiocarbon 52:113

[3] Santos et al. 2012a Biogeosci. 9:1873

[4] Santos et al. 2012b Biogeosci. Discussion 9:C6114

[5] Reyerson et al. 2013 AGU Fall meeting 2013 (Abstract ID: 1803125).

[6] Alexandre, et al., submitted.