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Sources and Distributions of Tetraether Lipids in Surface Sediments across a River-dominated Continental Margin

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Thomas Wagner


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Glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether (GDGT)-based proxies are increasingly used in modern carbon cycling and palaeoenvironmental investigations. It is therefore crucial to examine the robustness (sources, transport and degradation) of all GDGT-based proxies in continental margins, where sedimentation rates and extent of carbon cycling are high. We have analyzed the distributions of GDGTs in surface sediments from the Lower Yangtze River and East China Sea (ECS) shelf. The results revealed multiple sources and complex shelf processes that govern the distributions. The isoprenoid GDGT-inferred sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are robust and reflect the satellite-derived annual mean SSTs on the shallow ECS shelf, confirming an origin from surface water column-dwelling crenarchaeota. The input from methanogen-sourced, isoprenoid GDGTs is significant in the river surface sediments but they are almost absent from the ECS shelf. Branched GDGTs are also abundant in the river sediments, but ca. 95% are degraded in the Yangtze estuary, a much greater extent than observed for other terrigenous organic matter (OM) proxies. There is also evidence for production of branched GDGTs in the oxic ECS shelf water column and the anoxic sediments/waters of the Lower Yangtze River. As a result, branched GDGT-based proxies in the lower river and ECS surface sediments do not reflect the catchment environmental conditions. The effective degradation in the estuary and widespread aquatic contributions of branched GDGTs improves our understanding of how to use branched GDGT-based proxies in marginal seas.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Zhu C, Weijers JWH, Wagner T, Pan J, Pancost R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Organic Geochemistry

Year: 2011

Volume: 42

Issue: 4

Pages: 376-386

Print publication date: 15/02/2011

ISSN (print): 0146-6380

ISSN (electronic): 1873-5290

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2011.02.002


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Funder referenceFunder name
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Royal Society
University of Bristol
2010CB428903National Basic Research Program of China
LMEB200903Key Laboratory of Marine Ecosystem and Biogeochemistry, SOA