A geochemical method for removing the effect of tephra on lake diatom oxygen isotope records

Angela L. Lamb, Tim S. Brewer, Melanie J. Leng, Hilary J. Sloane, Henry F. Lamb

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21 Citations (SciVal)


The analysis of oxygen isotope ratios (δ18O) in biogenic silica (e.g. diatoms, sponge spicules, phytoliths) is an increasingly utilised palaeoclimatic proxy for lakes and oceans, providing an alternative to carbonate δ18O. Currently, the problems associated with the cleaning and extraction of pure diatom silica, especially from lake sediments, may compromise the precision associated with δ18Odiatom records. This is because, despite improvements in cleaning techniques, it is still difficult to remove silica-containing contaminants (e.g. tephra, silts and clays) from biogenic silica. Where it has proved difficult to remove all the silica bearing contaminants from a sample, mass balance calculations involving point counting have been used, but these are inherently inaccurate as they only consider the surface area of the contaminant, rather than volume. The new method described here assesses the volume of contamination in each sample of biogenic silica by using major and trace element geochemistry, allowing the δ18O of the contamination to be removed from the biogenic silica δ18O value by linear mass balance. In this case, diatom silica was contaminated with tephra, however the method should also be applicable to other contaminants such as silts and clays.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-516
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number4
Early online date26 Aug 2006
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2007


  • Contamination
  • Diatom
  • Ethiopia
  • Lake
  • Oxygen isotope
  • Tephra


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