Aspects of the loss-on-ignition (LOI) technique in the context of clay-rich, glaciolacustrine sediments

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The loss-on-ignition (LOI) technique for organic matter determination is evaluated with reference to clay-rich, glaciolacustrine sediments. Examples of the use of LOI in glaciolacustrine literature are inconsistent in their methodology, and standardisation is called for. Problems with application of the technique to glaciolacustrine sediments stem mainly from the effects of additional weight loss due to release of structurally bound water and exposure time to ignition temperatures. Exposure time should be increased from 1 hour to 2.5 hours in the light of significant additional weight loss occurring between 2 and 2.5 hours in clay-rich samples. The reason for this sudden increase in LOI after 2 hours (up to 86% of total LOI in some cases) appears to be the build-up of a distinct surface crust during heating that insulates the core of the sample from ignition temperatures. Some time between 2 and 2.5 hours, the crust breaks down and exposes the sample core to ignition temperatures, increasing weight loss significantly. Overestimation of LOI due to loss of structural water is thought to be insignificant. Replicates of LOI at 550 and 1000°C in non-calcareous, clay-rich (>40%) sediments, show differences of <0.25%, which, for the purpose of inferring broad changes in glacier extent in lake catchments, is an acceptable error.

Keywords: crusting; glaciolacustrine; loss-on-ignition; water loss

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Wales Swansea, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2003

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