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

Hoffmann, Bernd, Kahmen, Ansgar, Cernusak, Lucas A., Arndt, Stefan K., and Sachse, Dirk (2013) Abundance and distribution of leaf wax n-alkanes in leaves of Acacia and Eucalyptus trees along a strong humidity gradient in northern Australia. Organic Geochemistry, 62. pp. 62-67.

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Abstract

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, Acacia n-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.

Item ID: 29619
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-5290
Funders: German Science Foundation, ERC Starting Grant, Australian Research Council (ARC), Charles Darwin University
Projects and Grants: Emmy-Noether Research grant DFG SA-1889/1-1, ERC Starting grant 279518 COSIWAX, ARC Discovery grant DP0771427, ARC Future Fellowship grant FT100100329, ARC Linkage grant LP100100073
Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2013 05:26
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0607 Plant Biology > 060705 Plant Physiology @ 60%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0402 Geochemistry > 040203 Isotope Geochemistry @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960307 Effects of Climate Change and Variability on Australia (excl. Social Impacts) @ 50%
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