Black Carbon: fire fingerprints in Pleistocene loess-palaeosol archives in Germany


Past environmental changes were frequently accompanied by changes in fire regimes. However, the extent to which the residue of ancient fires (black carbon, BC) is abundant in Pleistocene palaeosols remains largely unknown, and whether, and to which degree its occurrence and composition relates to pedogenetic processes and palaeoenvironmental change. We studied three Pleistocene loesspalaeosol sequences from western Germany for systematic variation in BC quantity and quality during Marine Isotope Stages 5e to 4 (ca. 13065 ka BP), using the benzene polycarboxylic acid (BPCA) oxidation method. Palaeopedogenetic processes were elucidated from grain size distribution, colour, organic and inorganic carbon and Ba/Sr ratio. The results showed that BC peaked during phases of soil formation, indicated by increases in Ba/Sr, carbonate loss and colour change. Its concentration reached 0.62.1 g BC C/kg of former topsoil. The content was close to the detection limit in the parent loess and subsoil, suggesting that there was little if any vertical translocation. Parameters for BC quality (i.e. proportion of mellitic acid) were typical for BC derived from the burning of grass and leaves, as common for tundra-like and forest steppe vegetation dominating in stadials and interstadials of the Weichselian Glaciation. We conclude that BC was preserved in, and bears comparable information in, the three palaeosols. Hence, we recommend BPCA analysis of terrestrial archives for regional fire regime assessment in the Pleistocene.


Wolf et al 2014 Org Geochem Black carbon.pdf Request access Accessed 12 times | Last updated 15.05.2014


Lehndorff, E., Mrowald, M., Eckmeier, E., Kehl, M., Frechen, M., Pätzold, S., Amelung, W., Wolf, M. (2014): Black Carbon: fire fingerprints in Pleistocene loess-palaeosol archives in Germany. – In: Organic Geochemistry, Vol. 70, p: 44 - 52, DOI: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2014.03.002

Authors E. Lehndorff and M. Mrowald and E. Eckmeier and M. Kehl and M. Frechen and S. Pätzold and W. Amelung and M. Wolf
Type article
Title Black Carbon: fire fingerprints in Pleistocene loess-palaeosol archives in Germany
DOI 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2014.03.002
Journal Organic Geochemistry
Year 2014
Volume 70
Pages 44 - 52
Export BibTeX

Additional Metadata

Spatial {"type":"Polygon","coordinates":[[[6.45019,51.074],[7.28515,50.5883],[7.28515,50.5883],[6.45019,50.5883]]]}
Export RDF
Back to dataset list