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Origin Transport and Retention of Fluvial Sedimentary Organic Matter in South Africa's Freshwater Wetland Mkhuze Wetland System

Abstract : Sedimentary organic matter (OM) analyses along a 130 km long transect of the Mkhuze River from the Lebombo Mountains to its outlet into Lake St Lucia, Africa's most extensive estuarine system, revealed the present active trapping function of a terminal freshwater wetland. Combining bulk OM analyses, such as Rock-Eval®, and source-specific biomarker analyses of plant-wax n-alkanes and their stable carbon (δ13C) and hydrogen (δD) isotopic composition showed that fluvial sedimentary OM originating from inland areas is mainly deposited in the floodplain and swamp area of the wetland system but not in the downstream lake area. A distinctly less degraded OM signature, i.e., a considerably lower degree of transformation of unstable components (higher I index) and lower contribution of refractory and persistent fractions (lower R index) as well as recognizably higher δD values compared to samples from upstream sub-environments, characterizes surface sediments of Lake St Lucia. The offset in δD indicates that the contributing vegetation, although similar to upstream vegetation inputs in terms of photosynthetic pathway (δ13C) and alkane distribution pattern, experienced different hydrological growth conditions. The results suggest that under current conditions hinterland sedimentary OM is deposited throughout the wetland system up to the Mkhuze Swamps, which ultimately captures the transported OM. Consequently, samples from the downstream located Lake St Lucia show locally derived signals instead of integrated signals encompassing the river catchment. This finding raises important constraints for future environmental studies as the assumption of watershed-integrated signals in sedimentary archives retrieved from downstream lakes or offshore might not hold true in certain settings.
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https://hal-ifp.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03709773
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Submitted on : Thursday, August 11, 2022 - 4:45:54 PM
Last modification on : Friday, August 12, 2022 - 3:30:46 AM

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Julia Gensel, Marc Steven Humphries, Matthias Zabel, David Sebag, Annette Hahn, et al.. Origin Transport and Retention of Fluvial Sedimentary Organic Matter in South Africa's Freshwater Wetland Mkhuze Wetland System. Biogeosciences, European Geosciences Union, 2022, 19 (11), pp.2881 - 2902. ⟨10.5194/bg-19-2881-2022⟩. ⟨hal-03709773⟩

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