Influence of production variables and starting material on charcoal stable isotopic and molecular characteristics

Ascough, P.L. , Bird, M.I., Wormald, P., Snape, C.E. and Apperley, D. (2008) Influence of production variables and starting material on charcoal stable isotopic and molecular characteristics. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 72(24), pp. 6090-6102. (doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2008.10.009)

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We present a systematic study on the effect of starting species, gas composition, temperature, particle size and duration of heating upon the molecular and stable isotope composition of high density (mangrove) and low density (pine) wood. In both pine and mangrove, charcoal was depleted in o13C relative to the starting wood by up to 1.6% and 0.8%, respectively. This is attributed predominantly to the progressive loss of isotopically heavier polysaccharides, and kinetic effects of aromatization during heating. However, the pattern of o13C change was dependant upon both starting species and atmosphere, with different structural changes associated with charcoal production from each wood type elucidated by Solid-State o13C Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. These are particularly evident at lower temperatures, where variation in the oxygen content of the production atmosphere results in differences in the thermal degradation of cellulose and lignin. It is concluded that production of charcoal from separate species in identical conditions, or from a single sample exposed to different production variables, can result in significantly different o13C of the resulting material, relative to the initial wood. These results have implications for the use of charcoal isotope composition to infer past environmental change.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Ascough, Dr Philippa
Authors: Ascough, P.L., Bird, M.I., Wormald, P., Snape, C.E., and Apperley, D.
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
ISSN (Online):1872-9533
Published Online:18 October 2008
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2008 Elsevier
First Published:First published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 72(24):6090-6102
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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