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Trace organic compounds: Tracing water availability, organic carbon sources, and life at the dry limit using radiocarbon analysis

Research areas: Geochronology, Organic Geochemistry, Method Development

Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Janet Rethemeyer, Dr. Stephanie Kusch

Radiocarbon and lipid analysis as well as the combined compound-specific radiocarbon analysis (CSRA) will be used as promising analytical technique for answering the main research questions of this project.

  1. How does water availability in the Atacama change under the influence of ENSO variability as reconstructed by growth rates and the distribution of the fog-dependent vegetation?
  2. How does water availability affect organic carbon (OC) cycling in soils - substrate for microbial life - and microbial diversity? Which factors besides water availability affect OC cycling in soils and microbial life?

These questions will be answered through the investigation of plants and soils from the common focus areas in the Atacama Desert (B01, B05) and by using the required data on climate variability (A01, A02, Z03) as well as on soil properties, nutrients, and microbial communities (B04, B05, C04).

Because of the extremely low organic carbon contents of the soils in the Atacama Desert technical development of the dedicated radiocarbon analytical procedures are required including 1) the reduction of blank level during sample preparation of bulk samples and individual organic compounds, and 2) the construction of a small volume vacuum system enabling micro-scale AMS 14C analyses of ‘graphite’ samples down to 10-50 μg of carbon. These will be established in the project and will be available for other CRC projects including radiocarbon analyses.

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Prof. Dr. Tibor J. Dunai
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne
Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49-(0)221-470 2634 | tduanai@uni-koeln.de
Dr. Maximilian Müller
Institute of Geography | University of Cologne

Otto-Fischer-Str. 4 | 50674 Cologne
+49-(0)221-470 2241 | maximilian.mueller@uni-koeln.de
Deputy Speaker:
Prof. Dr. Martin Melles
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49a | 50674 Cologne
+49-(0)221-470 2262 | mmelles@uni-koeln.de
© 2017 CRC1211 - Earth - Evolution at the Dry Limit

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