Stable isotope compositions of pedogenic carbonates ( δ 13 C carb , δ 18 O carb ) are widely used in paleoenvironmental and paleoaltimetry studies. At the same time, both in vertical stratigraphic sections and in horizontal transects of single paleosols, significant variability in δ 18 O carb values is observed well in excess of what could reasonably be attributed to elevation changes. Herein, a new screening tool is proposed to establish which pedogenic carbonate δ 18 O carb compositions reflect formation in isotopic equilibrium with environmental conditions through the use of the co-occurring δ 13 C org composition of carbonate-occluded or in profile organic matter, where Δ 13 C = δ 13 C carb – δ 13 C org . Based upon 51 modern soils from monsoonal, continental, and Mediterranean moisture regimes, Δ 13 C = +15.6 ± 1.1‰ (1 σ ), which closely matches theoretical predictions for carbonates formed at carbon isotope equilibrium through Fickian diffusion. Examples from both disequilibrium and equilibrium cases in the geologic record are examined, and it is shown that previous δ 18 O carb records used to infer Cenozoic uplift in southwestern Montana do not provide any constraint on paleoelevation because >90% of the pedogenic carbonate isotopic compositions are out of equilibrium. Guidelines for future paleoaltimetry studies include collection of both vertical stratigraphic sections and lateral transects, of at least three nodules per horizon, petrographic screening of nodules for diagenesis, collection of at least one independent proxy for paleoclimate or paleovegetation, and screening δ 18 O carb values using Δ 13 C measured for each paleosol.
Sheldon, N. D. (2018). Using Carbon Isotope Equilibrium to Screen Pedogenic Carbonate Oxygen Isotopes: Implications for Paleoaltimetry and Paleotectonic Studies. Geofluids, 2018, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/5975801