The use of volcanic ash layers for dating and correlation (tephrochronology) is widely applied in the study of past environmental changes. We describe the first cryptotephra (non-visible volcanic ash horizon) to be identified in the Amazon basin, which is tentatively attributed to a source in the Ecuadorian Eastern Cordillera (0-1°S, 78-79°W), some 500-600km away from our field site in the Peruvian Amazon. Our discovery 1) indicates that the Amazon basin has been subject to volcanic ash fallout during the recent past; 2) highlights the opportunities for using cryptotephras to date palaeoenvironmental records in the Amazon basin and 3) indicates that cryptotephra layers are preserved in a dynamic Amazonian peatland, suggesting that similar layers are likely to be present in other peat sequences that are important for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. The discovery of cryptotephra in an Amazonian peatland provides a baseline for further investigation of Amazonian tephrochronology and the potential impacts of volcanism on vegetation.
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