Geochemical methods to infer landscape response to Quaternary climate change and land use in depositional archives: a review

Alexander Francke*, Jens Holtvoeth, Alexandru T Codilean, Jack H Lacey, Germain Bayon, Anthony Dosseto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding and quantifying the processes and geochemical cycles associated with catchment erosion, the development of soils and weathering horizons, and terrestrial habitat change beyond the scales of modern observations remain challenging. Such research, however, has become increasingly important to help predict future landscape change in light of increasing land use and rapid global warming. We herein review organic and inorganic geochemical tools applied to depositional archives to better understand various aspects of landscape evolution on geological time scales. We highlight the potentials and limitations of inorganic geochemical analytical methods, such as major element geochemistry, metal and radiogenic isotopes, and in-situ cosmogenic nuclides, as qualitative, semi-quantitative, and quantitative proxies for the transformation of bedrock material via regolith and soils to sediments. We also show how stable isotope geochemistry applied to lacustrine endogenic carbonates can be used to infer rock-water interactions, vegetation change, and soil development in limestone-rich catchments. Proxies focusing on the silicilastic element of sediment formation, transport and deposition are also ideally combined with organic geochemical proxies for vegetation change and soil organic matter evolution in a catchment to gain a comprehensive picture of the Critical Zone’s evolution over time. Multi-proxy and multidisciplinary research combining organic and inorganic geochemical techniques from several sedimentary archives in the same catchment have high potential to provide comprehensive information on Quaternary landscape evolution and thus improve the robustness of associated forecasting models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103218
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Early online date5 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • Quaternary landscape evolution
  • Catchment erosion
  • Terrestrial habitat change
  • Land use
  • Fluvial
  • Lacustrine
  • Inorganic geochemistry
  • Organic geochemistry
  • Radiogenic isotopes
  • Metal isotopes
  • Uranium isotopes
  • Cosmogenic nuclides
  • Biomarkers
  • compound-specific stable isotope analyses


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