From Leaf Synthesis to Senescence: n-Alkyl Lipid Abundance and D/H Composition Among Plant Species in a Temperate Deciduous Forest at Brown’s Lake Bog, Ohio, USA

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Erika J Freimuth, Aaron F Diefendorf and Thomas V Lowell, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, United States
The hydrogen isotope composition (D/H, δD) of terrestrial plant leaf waxes is a promising paleohydrology proxy because meteoric water (e.g., precipitation) is the primary hydrogen source for wax synthesis. However, secondary environmental and biological factors modify the net apparent fractionation between precipitation δD and leaf wax δD, limiting quantitative reconstruction of paleohydrology. These secondary factors include soil evaporation, leaf transpiration, biosynthetic fractionation, and the seasonal timing of lipid synthesis. Here, we investigate the influence of each of these factors on n-alkyl lipid δD in five dominant deciduous angiosperm tree species as well as shrubs, ferns and grasses in the watershed surrounding Brown’s Lake Bog, Ohio, USA. We quantified n-alkane and n-alkanoic acid concentrations and δD in replicate individuals of each species at weekly to monthly intervals from March to October 2014 to assess inter- and intraspecific isotope variability throughout the growing season. We present soil, xylem and leaf water δD from each individual, and precipitation and atmospheric water vapor δD throughout the season to directly examine the relationship between source water and lipid isotope composition. These data allow us to assess the relative influence of soil evaporation and leaf transpiration among plant types, within species, and along a soil moisture gradient throughout the catchment. We use leaf water δD to approximate biosynthetic fractionation for each individual and test whether this is a species-specific and seasonal constant, and to evaluate variation among plant types with identical growth conditions. Our high frequency sampling approach provides new insights into the seasonal timing of n-alkane and n-alkanoic acid synthesis and subsequent fluctuations in concentration and δD in a temperate deciduous forest. These results will advance understanding of the magnitude and timing of secondary influences on the modern leaf wax δD signal, thereby improving paleohydrology information extracted from leaf wax δD.