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Evaluating paleoproxies for peat decomposition and their relationship to peat geochemistry

Abstract : The past decade has seen a rapid increase in interest in the biogeochemical record preserved in peat, particularly as it relates to carbon dynamics and environmental change. Importantly, recent studies show that carbon dynamics, that is, organic matter decomposition, can influence the record of atmospherically derived elements such as halogens and mercury. Most commonly, bulk density, light transmission, or carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratios are used as a proxy to qualitatively infer the degree of decomposition in peat, but do these three proxies reflect the same patterns? Furthermore, how do each of these proxies relate to other geochemical data? To address these questions, we analyzed bulk density, light transmission, and C/N ratios, as well as multielement geochemistry (wavelength-dispersive x-ray fluorescence (WD-XRF)), in three hummock cores (70 cm in length, c. 500 years) from an ombrotrophic Swedish bog. To compare the proxies, we applied principal component analysis (PCA) to identify how the proxies relate to and interact with the geochemical matrix. This was coupled with changepoint modeling to identify and compare statistically significant changes for each proxy. Our results show differences between the proxies within and between cores, indicating each responds to a different part of the decomposition process. This is supported by the PCA, where the three proxies fall on different principal components. Changepoint analysis also showed that the inferred number of changepoints and their depths vary for each proxy and core. This suggests that decomposition is not fully captured by any one of these commonly used proxies, and thus, more than one proxy should be included.
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Contributor : Isabelle Dubigeon <>
Submitted on : Monday, December 2, 2013 - 2:19:16 PM
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Sophia Hansson, Johan Rydberg, Malin Kylander, Kerry Gallagher, Richard Bindler. Evaluating paleoproxies for peat decomposition and their relationship to peat geochemistry. The holocene, London: Sage, 2013, 23 (12), pp.1666-1671. ⟨10.1177/0959683613508160⟩. ⟨insu-00912635⟩



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