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Carbon and nitrogen dynamics in decaying wood: paleoenvironmental implications

Abstract : The effect of early diagenesis on carbon and, especially, nitrogen isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) of organic matter is not well understood and is of interest for accurate paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Wood samples were incubated in distilled water and river water to assess the effects of early diagenesis on carbon and nitrogen dynamics. Elemental content and isotopic composition of carbon and nitrogen as well as mass loss of wood pieces were determined. Mass loss in river water was three times greater than in distilled water. This difference was attributed to the development of two different types of fungi characterised by various degradation rates. Carbon dynamics of wood samples showed similar patterns in both type of water: (i) a sharp increase in carbon content, possibly related to carbohydrate degradation, before it slowly returned towards initial values, and (ii) no significant changes in δ13C values. In contrast, nitrogen dynamics of samples showed complex patterns: (i) N release associated with 15N depletion in distilled water, attributed to uptake of 15N-enriched pool (i.e. proteins) by fungi, and (ii) N accumulation associated with 15N enrichment in river water. The latter pattern was attributed predominantly to microbially mediated importation of 15N-enriched nitrate from river water. Although challenging, the present results suggest that early diagenesis may average an environmental signal by integrating individual signals (woods, fungi, water) and microbial processes. Considering the non-linear behaviour of early diagenesis, this integration is probably almost instantaneous on the geological time scale, which may not preclude paleoenvironmental reconstructions.
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Romain Tramoy, Mathieu Sebilo, Thanh Thuy Nguyen Tu, Johann Schnyder. Carbon and nitrogen dynamics in decaying wood: paleoenvironmental implications. Environmental Chemistry, CSIRO Publishing, 2017, 14 (1), pp.9-18. ⟨10.1071/EN16049⟩. ⟨hal-01415712⟩

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