18O analyses of bulk lipids as novel paleoclimate tool in loess research – a pilot study

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The analysis of the stable oxygen isotopes 18O and 16O has revolutionized paleoclimate research since the middle of the last century. Particularly, δ18O of ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica is used as a paleotemperature proxy, and δ18O of deep-sea sediments is used as a proxy for global ice volume. Important terrestrial archives to which δ18O as a paleoclimate proxy is successfully applied are speleothems, lake sediments, or tree rings. By contrast, δ18O applications to loess–paleosol sequences (LPSs) are scarce. Here we present a first continuous δ18O record (n = 50) for the LPS Crvenka in Serbia, southeastern Europe, spanning the last glacial–interglacial cycle (since 145 ka). From a methodological point of view, we took advantage of a recently proposed paleoclimate/paleohydrological proxy based on bulk δ18O analyses of plant-derived lipids. The Crvenka δ18Obulk lipid values range between -10.2 % and +23.0 % and are systematically more positive in the interglacial and interstadial (paleo-)soils corresponding to marine oxygen-isotope stage (MIS) 1, 3, and 5, compared to the loess layers (MIS 2, 4, and 6). Our Crvenka δ18Obulk lipid record provides no evidence for the occurrence of interstadials and stadials comparable to the Dansgaard–Oeschger events known from the Greenland δ18Oice core records. Concerning the interpretation of our Crvenka δ18Obulk lipid record, plant-derived lipids such as fatty acids and alcohols are certainly strongly influenced by climatic factors such as temperature (via δ18Oprecipitation) and relative air humidity (via 18O enrichment of leaf water due to evapotranspiration). However, pool effects in the form of non-water-correlated lipids such as sterols or the input of root-derived lipids need to be considered, too. Similarly, the input of soil-microbial lipids and oxygen exchange reactions represent uncertainties challenging quantitative paleoclimate/paleohydrological reconstructions based on δ18Obulk lipid analyses from LPSs.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-90
Number of pages8
JournalE and G Quaternary Science Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022