Articles | Volume 10, issue 4
Research article
 | Highlight paper
23 Apr 2013
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 23 Apr 2013

Bacteriohopanepolyols record stratification, nitrogen fixation and other biogeochemical perturbations in Holocene sediments of the central Baltic Sea

M. Blumenberg, C. Berndmeyer, M. Moros, M. Muschalla, O. Schmale, and V. Thiel

Abstract. The Baltic Sea, one of the world's largest brackish-marine basins, established after deglaciation of Scandinavia about 17 000 to 15 000 yr ago. In the changeable history of the Baltic Sea, the initial freshwater system was connected to the North Sea about 8000 yr ago and the modern brackish-marine setting (Littorina Sea) was established. Today, a relatively stable stratification has developed in the water column of the deep basins due to salinity differences. Stratification is only occasionally interrupted by mixing events, and it controls nutrient availability and growth of specifically adapted microorganisms and algae. We studied bacteriohopanepolyols (BHPs), lipids of specific bacterial groups, in a sediment core from the central Baltic Sea (Gotland Deep) and found considerable differences between the distinct stages of the Baltic Sea's history. Some individual BHP structures indicate contributions from as yet unknown redoxcline-specific bacteria (bacteriohopanetetrol isomer), methanotrophic bacteria (35-aminobacteriohopanetetrol), cyanobacteria (bacteriohopanetetrol cyclitol ether isomer) and from soil bacteria (adenosylhopane) through allochthonous input after the Littorina transgression, whereas the origin of other BHPs in the core has still to be identified. Notably high BHP abundances were observed in the deposits of the brackish-marine Littorina phase, particularly in laminated sediment layers. Because these sediments record periods of stable water column stratification, bacteria specifically adapted to these conditions may account for the high portions of BHPs. An additional and/or accompanying source may be nitrogen-fixing (cyano)bacteria, which is indicated by a positive correlation of BHP abundances with Corg and δ15N.

Final-revised paper