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Mapping and defining sources of variability in bioavailable strontium isotope ratios in the Eastern Mediterranean

January 13, 2014

The relative contributions of bedrock and atmospheric sources to bioavailable strontium (Sr) pools in local soils was studied in Northern Israel and the Golan regions through intensive systematic sampling of modern plants and invertebrates, to produce a map of modern bioavailable strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) for regional reconstructions of human and animal mobility patterns. The study investigates sources of variability in bioavailable 87Sr/86Sr ratios, in particular the intra-and inter-site range of variation in plant 87Sr/86Sr ratios, the range of 87Sr/86Sr ratios of plants growing on marine sedimentary versus volcanic geologies, the differences between ligneous and non-ligneous plants with varying growth and water utilization strategies, and the relative contribution of atmospheric Sr sources from different soil and vegetation types and climatic zones. Results indicate predictable variation in 87Sr/86Sr ratios. Inter- and intra-site differences in bioavailable 87Sr/86Sr ratios average of 0.00025, while the range of 87Sr/86Sr ratios measured regionally in plants and invertebrates is 0.7090 in Pleistocene calcareous sandstone and 0.7074 in mid-Pleistocene volcanic pyroclast. The 87Sr/86Sr ratios measured in plants growing on volcanic bedrock show time dependent increases in atmospheric deposition relative to bedrock weathering. The 87Sr/86Sr ratios measured in plants growing on renzina soils depends on precipitation. The spacing between bedrock 87Sr/86Sr ratios and plants is highest in wet conditions and decreases in dry conditions. The 87Sr/86Sr ratios measured in plants growing on terra rossa soils is relatively constant (0.7085) regardless of precipitation. Ligneous plants are typically closer to bedrock 87Sr/86Sr ratios than non-ligneous plants. Since the bioavailable 87Sr/86Sr ratios currently measured in the region reflect a mix of both exogenous and endogenous sources, changes in the relative contribution of exogenous sources can cause variation over time. Precipitation, the age of the bedrock and the overall Sr concentration must to be taken into consideration when interpreting geographical variation in strontium isotopes throughout a region. Because these factors can change through time, we recommend that Sr data from time periods older than the Holocene be interpreted with caution.

Hartman G, Richards M, 2014, Mapping and defining sources of variability in bioavailable strontium isotope ratios in the Eastern Mediterranean, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 126, 250-264, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2013.11.015. Article.

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