Lignin oxidation products as a potential proxy for vegetation and environmental changes in speleothems and cave drip water – a first record from the Herbstlabyrinth, central Germany

Heidke, Inken; Scholz, Denis; Hoffmann, Thorsten

Here, we present the first quantitative speleothem record of lignin oxidation products (LOPs), which has been determined in a Holocene stalagmite from the Herbstlabyrinth Cave in central Germany. In addition, we present LOP results from 16 months of drip water monitoring. Lignin is only produced by vascular plants and therefore has the potential to be an unambiguous vegetation proxy and to complement other vegetation and climate proxies in speleothems. We compare our results with stable isotope and trace element data from the same sample. In the stalagmite, LOP concentrations show a similar behavior to P, Ba and U concentrations, which have previously been interpreted as vegetation proxies. The LOP S∕V and C∕V ratios, which are usually used to differentiate between angiosperm and gymnosperm and woody and non-woody vegetation, show complex patterns suggesting additional influencing factors, such as transport and microbiological effects. The drip water from a fast drip site shows a seasonal pattern of LOPs with low LOP concentrations in winter and higher LOP concentrations in summer. These results indicate the potential of LOPs as a new proxy for vegetational and environmental changes in speleothems but also demonstrate the complexity and the current limitations of our understanding of the transport of lignin from the soil into the cave and the speleothems.

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Heidke, Inken / Scholz, Denis / Hoffmann, Thorsten: Lignin oxidation products as a potential proxy for vegetation and environmental changes in speleothems and cave drip water – a first record from the Herbstlabyrinth, central Germany. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Inken Heidke et al.

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