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Abundance and distribution of leaf wax n-alkanes in leaves of Acacia and Eucalyptus trees along a strong humidity gradient in northern Australia

  • Environmental parameters such as rainfall, temperature and relative humidity can affect the composition of higher plant leaf wax. The abundance and distribution of leaf wax biomarkers, such as long chain n-alkanes, in sedimentary archives have therefore been proposed as proxies reflecting climate change. However, a robust palaeoclimatic interpretation requires a thorough understanding of how environmental changes affect leaf wax n-alkane distributions in living plants. We have analysed the concentration and chain length distribution of leaf wax n-alkanes in Acacia and Eucalyptus species along a 1500 km climatic gradient in northern Australia that ranges from subtropical to arid. We show that aridity affected the concentration and distribution of n-alkanes for plants in both genera. For both Acacia and Eucalyptus n-alkane concentration increased by a factor of ten to the dry centre of Australia, reflecting the purpose of the wax in preventing water loss from the leaf. Furthermore, Acacian-alkanes decreased in average chain length (ACL)Environmental parameters such as rainfall, temperature and relative humidity can affect the composition of higher plant leaf wax. The abundance and distribution of leaf wax biomarkers, such as long chain n-alkanes, in sedimentary archives have therefore been proposed as proxies reflecting climate change. However, a robust palaeoclimatic interpretation requires a thorough understanding of how environmental changes affect leaf wax n-alkane distributions in living plants. We have analysed the concentration and chain length distribution of leaf wax n-alkanes in Acacia and Eucalyptus species along a 1500 km climatic gradient in northern Australia that ranges from subtropical to arid. We show that aridity affected the concentration and distribution of n-alkanes for plants in both genera. For both Acacia and Eucalyptus n-alkane concentration increased by a factor of ten to the dry centre of Australia, reflecting the purpose of the wax in preventing water loss from the leaf. Furthermore, Acacian-alkanes decreased in average chain length (ACL) towards the arid centre of Australia, whereas Eucalyptus ACL increased under arid conditions. Our observations demonstrate that n-alkane concentration and distribution in leaf wax are sensitive to hydroclimatic conditions. These parameters could therefore potentially be employed in palaeorecords to estimate past environmental change. However, our finding of a distinct response of n-alkane ACL values to hydrological changes in different taxa also implies that the often assumed increase in ACL under drier conditions is not a robust feature for all plant species and genera and as such additional information about the prevalent vegetation are required when ACL values are used as a palaeoclimate proxy.show moreshow less

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Metadaten
Author:Bernd Hoffmann, Ansgar Kahmen, Lucas A. Cernusak, Stefan K. Arndt, Dirk Sachse
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orggeochem.2013.07.003
ISSN:0146-6380 (print)
Parent Title (English):Organic geochemistry : the international journal for rapid publication of current research in organic geochemistry and biochemistry
Publisher:Elsevier
Place of publication:Oxford
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of first Publication:2013
Year of Completion:2013
Release Date:2017/03/26
Volume:62
Issue:9
Pagenumber:6
First Page:62
Last Page:67
Funder:German Science Foundation [DFG SA-1889/1-1]; ERC [279518 COSIWAX]; Australian Research Council [DP0771427, FT100100329]; Charles Darwin University; Linkage Grant from the Australian Research Council [LP100100073]
Organizational units:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Erd- und Umweltwissenschaften
Peer Review:Referiert