The stable hydrogen isotopic composition (d2H) of leaf waxes have traditionally been used to infer modern and paleoclimate precipitation sources. However, the extent to which evapotranspiration of leaf waters affects the d2H of plant leaf waxes remains hotly contested with offsets varying between species. Because of the relative importance of root organic matter contribution to bulk soil pools compared to litter/leaves and the minimal fractionation between soil water and root material, it is plausible that bulk soil organic matter d2H may be an option for modern and paleoclimate precipitation reconstructions. In this study, we analyzed the non-exchangeable d2H composition of roots, litter, leaves, and bulk soils along an elevation gradient in the southern Sierra Nevada range (USA). Our results show a consistent offset of 30 ± 3‰ in bulk soil organic matter in surface soils from the measured precipitation. This consistent relationship with precipitation was not found in any of the other organic materials that we measured and implies that d2H bulk soil organic matter can record precipitation signals regardless of above-ground species composition. Additionally, we utilized physical density fractionation to determine which fractions (which vary in level of mineral association and in turnover time) of the soil control this relationship. These findings and how this relationship holds with depth will be presented in conjunction with data from a soil profile on the Ethiopian plateau spanning ~6000 years.
Williams, E.K.; Terwilliger, V.J.; Nakamoto, B.J.; Berhe, A.A.; Fogel, M.L. (2016): Bulk Soil Organic Matter d2H as a Precipitation Proxy . Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union, December 2016. Abstract PP24B-01..