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Distribution of hopanoids along a land to sea transect: Implications for microbial ecology and the use of hopanoids in environmental studies

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Helen Talbot, Professor Thomas Wagner


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Bacteriohopanepolyols (BHPs) are lipid constituents of diverse bacteria and have great potential as taxonomically and environmentally diagnostic biomarkers. In order to examine their environmental behavior and potential for tracing biogeochemical processes, we analyzed BHPs and geohopanoids (the diagenetic products of BHPs) in soils and surface sediments from the Middle Yangtze River catchment-East China Sea (ECS). These data are compared to an up-to-date survey of BHP distributions in soils, including regions collectively covering the Arctic, temperate, subtropics, and tropics. Regional climatic differences, particularly temperature, likely exert an important control on BHP distributions in soils. In the aquatic (river-estuary-shelf) setting, BHP concentrations and structural diversity are substantially lower than in soils, suggesting that in aquatic environments either bacterial biodiversity is lower or there is not the same requirement for hopanoid synthesis. However, different aquatic regimes vary substantially: high BHP diversity and enhanced BHP production occur in the biogeochemcially dynamic Yangtze estuary, whereas the BHP distribution is uniform with much less structural diversity in the oligotrophic ECS open shelf. The Rsoil index, based on the relative abundances of soil-marker BHPs against bacteriohopanetetrol, is suggested as a new approach to trace soil organic matter input into marine sediments. The Rsoil indices decrease from the River to the ECS, correlating strongly with Branched and Isoprenoid Tetraether (BIT) indices and moderately with δ13Corg (δ13C of organic carbon) values and the concentrations of higher plant biomarkers, demonstrating its ability to trace soil organic matter inputs at least to the ECS.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Zhu C, Talbot HM, Wagner T, Pan JM, Pancost RD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Limnology and Oceanography

Year: 2011

Volume: 56

Issue: 5

Pages: 1850-1865

ISSN (print): 0024-3590

ISSN (electronic): 1939-5590

Publisher: American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, Inc.


DOI: 10.4319/lo.2011.56.5.1850


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Funder referenceFunder name
Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)
Royal Society
University of Bristol
LMEB200903Key Laboratory of Marrine Ecosystem and Biogeochemistry, State Oceanic Administration of China