Strontium and carbon isotope tracers and the origins of soil carbonate in South Australia and Victoria

J. Quade, A. R. Chivas, M. T. McCulloch

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131 Scopus citations


Calcium carbonate occurs in soils in association with a variety of rock types in coastal and inland South Australia and Victoria. The 87Sr 86Sr ratios of the coastal soil carbonates fall between 0.7094 and 0.7098, showing that the ocean is the principal source of calcium to nearly all soils near the coast, and that contributions from bedrock are generally small. An exception is the soil formed on the young volcano at Mt. Gambier in which the average ratio for carbonate is about 0.7070 compared to 0.7041 for the volcanic ash. The basaltic ash of the volcano is readily weathered and rich in calcium: roughly 40% of strontium and 10 to 20% of the calcium in the soil carbonate derives from the ash, and the balance from marine sources. The 87Sr 86Sr ratios from soil carbonate gradually increase inland, reaching values of 0.7152. These higher ratios reflect, at least in part, the increasing 87Sr 86Sr ratio of inland dust. In contrast, the ocean does not contribute significantly to the carbon pool of the soils we studied. The δ13C (PDB) values of soil carbonates on Kangaroo Island and the higher rainfall areas of eastern Victoria fall between -11.0 and -8.7‰, indicating that the carbonate formed in equilibrium with the C3-dominated vegetation typical of the region. In the warmer inland areas to the north such as the Eyre Peninsula, the δ13C value of soil carbonate averages -5.3‰, reflecting the higher proportion of C4 plants in the local biomass. Mixing with marine sources of carbonate cannot account for the observed carbon isotopic patterns. The flux of carbon into soils from the ocean therefore must be small compared to that derived from plant respiration and decay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-117
Number of pages15
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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