Stable carbon isotope analysis of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in natural waters- results from a worldwide proficiency test
van Geldern, R, Verma, MP, Carvalho, MC, Grassa, F, Delgado-Huertas, A, Monvoison, G & Barth, JAC 2013, 'Stable carbon isotope analysis of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in natural waters- results from a worldwide proficiency test', Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, vol. 27, no. 18, pp. 2099-2107.
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RATIONALE: Stable carbon isotope ratios of dissolved inorganic (DIC) and organic carbon (DOC) are of particular interest in aquatic geochemistry. The precision for this type of analysis is typically reported in the range of 0.1‰ to 0.5‰. However, there is no published attempt that compares δ13C measurements of DIC and DOC among different laboratories for natural water samples. METHODS: Five natural water samples (lake water, seawater, two geothermal waters, and petroleum well water) were analyzed for δ13CDIC and δ13CDOC values by ﬁve laboratories with isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) in an international proﬁciency test. RESULTS: The reportedδ13CDIC values for lake water and seawater showed fairly good agreement within a range of about 1‰, whereas geothermal and petroleum waters were characterized by much larger differences (up to 6.6‰ between laboratories). δ13CDOC values were only comparable for seawater and showed differences of 10 to 21‰for other samples. CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that scatter in δ13CDIC isotope data can be in the range of several per mil for samples from extreme environments (geothermal waters) and may not yield reliable information with respect to dissolved carbon (petroleum wells). The analyses of lake water and seawater also revealed a larger than expected difference and researchers from various disciplines should be aware of this. Evaluation of analytical procedures of the participating laboratories indicated that the differences cannot be explained by analytical errors or different data normalization procedures and must be related to speciﬁc sample characteristics or secondary effects during sample storage and handling. Our results reveal the need for further research on sources of error and on method standardization.