Age of Terrestrial Biomarkers in Fluvial Transit Across the Andes-Amazon Reveal Timescales of Carbon Storage and Turnover
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Environmental signatures carried by fluvially-exported terrestrial organic matter are shaped by storage, remineralization and replacement at various spatial and temporal scales. Uncertainties in the timescales of these processes are key caveats in the accurate interpretation of sedimentary records. As part of a multi-isotope leaf wax biomarker project, we report the age of biomarkers transported by rivers from mountain to floodplain across the Andes-Amazon transition in southern Peru. We tracked the age of organic carbon using the radiocarbon (14ΔC) composition of plant leaf waxes extracted from particulate organic carbon (POC) in river suspended sediments. Leaf waxes from POC are younger in mountain headwaters (<500 yrs old) and increase in age across the floodplain (>1000 yrs). Downstream aging is associated with the greater storage potential and residence times in lowland mineral soils and sedimentary sequences that include Pleistocene age eroding river terraces. Given three key observations that 1) carbon loading in suspended sediment does not substantively change from Andes to Amazon, 2) ~80% of sediment is sourced in the Andes, and 3) age increases downstream (this study); we find proof of the decoupling of organic carbon from sediment, which we attribute to loss of Andean carbon and replacement during transport.