We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Dr Darren R. Gröcke

Gröcke, D. R. (1998). Carbon-isotope analyses of fossil plants as a chemostratigraphic and palaeoenvironmental tool. Lethaia 31(1): 1-13.

Author(s) from Durham


A review of carbon-isotope analysis (δ13C) of terrestrial organic matter indicates that this has become a valuable tool for stratigraphic correlation between marine and non-marine sequences as well as providing palaeoenvironmental information. Early Cretaceous fossil wood was collected over a 64 cm section from Flat Rocks, southeastern Australia, and analysed for carbon-isotope ratios. Three positive δ13Cplant shifts were recorded, and a similar pattern was found in the carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratio of the plant fragments. Comparisons of δ13Cplant values and C/N ratios with sedimentology indicate that positive shifts occur in sand-rich horizons, while negative shifts occur in mud-rich horizons. This trend most likely represents diagenetic-taphonomic changes caused by changes in the oxidation state and/or bacterial activity during deposition and fossilization of the plant matter. The application of carbon-isotope analyses on fossil plants can provide invaluable information with respect to the environment on a local, regional or global scale; however, caution must be exercised in interpreting these data accurately.