01 Nov 2021

01 Nov 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

A modern snapshot of the isotopic composition of lacustrine biogenic carbonates – Records of seasonal water temperature variability

Inga Labuhn1,, Franziska Tell1,2,, Ulrich von Grafenstein3, Dan Hammarlund4, Henning Kuhnert2, and Bénédicte Minster3 Inga Labuhn et al.
  • 1Institute of Geography, University of Bremen, Celsiusstr. 2, 28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 2MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Leobener Str. 8, 28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 3Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, LSCE/IPSL, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Université Paris-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 4Quaternary Sciences, Department of Geology, Lund University, Sölvegatan 12, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden
  • These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Carbonate shells and encrustations from lacustrine organisms provide proxy records of past environmental and climatic changes. The carbon isotopic composition (δ13C) of such carbonates depends on the δ13C of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). Their oxygen isotopic composition (δ18O) is controlled by the δ18O of the lake water and on water temperature during carbonate precipitation. Lake water δ18O, in turn, reflects the δ18O of precipitation in the catchment, water residence time and mixing, and evaporation. A paleoclimate interpretation of carbonate isotope records requires a site-specific calibration based on an understanding of these local conditions.

For this study, samples of different carbonate components and water were collected in the littoral zone of Lake Locknesjön, central Sweden (62.99° N, 14.85° E, 328 m a.s.l.) along a water depth gradient from 1 to 8 m. Samples from living organisms and sub-recent samples in surface sediments were taken from the calcifying alga Chara hispida, mollusks from the genus Pisidium, and adult and juvenile instars of two ostracod species, Candona candida and Candona neglecta.

Neither the isotopic composition of carbonates nor the δ18O of water vary significantly with water depth, indicating a well-mixed epilimnion. The mean δ13C of Chara hispida encrustations is 4 ‰ higher than the other carbonates. This is due to fractionation related to photosynthesis, which preferentially incorporates 12C in the organic matter and increases the δ13C of the encrustations. A small effect of photosynthetic 13C enrichment in DIC is seen in contemporaneously formed valves of juvenile ostracods. The largest differences in the mean carbonate δ18O between species are caused by vital offsets, i.e. the species-specific deviations from the δ18O of inorganic carbonate which would have been precipitated in isotopic equilibrium with the water. After subtraction of these offsets, the remaining differences in the mean carbonate δ18O between species can mainly be attributed to seasonal water temperature changes. The lowest δ18O values are observed in Chara hispida encrustations, which form during the summer months when photosynthesis is most intense. Adult ostracods, which calcify their valves during the cold season, display the highest δ18O values. This is because an increase in water temperature leads to a decrease in fractionation between carbonate and water, and therefore to a decrease in carbonate δ18O. At the same time, an increase in air temperature leads to an increase in the δ18O of lake water through its effect on precipitation δ18O and on evaporation from the lake, and consequently to an increase in carbonate δ18O, opposite to the effect of increasing water temperature on oxygen-isotope fractionation. However, the seasonal and inter-annual variability in lake water δ18O is small (~0.5 ‰) due to the long water residence time of the lake. Seasonal changes in the temperature-dependent fractionation are therefore the dominant cause of carbonate δ18O differences between species when vital offsets are corrected.

Temperature reconstructions based on paleotemperature equations for equilibrium carbonate precipitation using the mean δ18O of each species and the mean δ18O of lake water are well in agreement with the observed seasonal water temperature range. The high carbonate δ18O variability of samples within a species, on the other hand, leads to a large scatter in the reconstructed temperatures based on individual samples. This implies that care must be taken to obtain a representative sample size for paleotemperature reconstructions.

Inga Labuhn et al.

Status: open (until 13 Dec 2021)

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Inga Labuhn et al.

Inga Labuhn et al.


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Short summary
This study presents the isotopic composition of biogenic carbonates from several lacustrine species which calcify during different times of the year. The authors demonstrate that, when biological offsets are corrected, the dominant cause of difference between species is the seasonal variation in temperature-dependent fractionation of oxygen isotopes. Consequently, such carbonates from lake sediments can provide proxy records of seasonal water temperature changes in the past.