Prominent bacterial heterotrophy and sources of 13C-depleted fatty acids to the interior Canada Basin
Abstract. In recent decades, the Canada Basin of the Arctic Ocean has experienced rapidly decreasing summer sea ice coverage and freshening of surface waters. It is unclear how these changes translate to deeper waters, particularly as our baseline understanding of organic carbon cycling in the deep basin is quite limited. In this study, we describe full-depth profiles of the abundance, distribution and carbon isotopic composition of fatty acids from suspended particulate matter at a seasonally ice-free station and a semi-permanently ice-covered station. Fatty acids, along with suspended particulate organic carbon (POC), are more concentrated and 13C-enriched under ice cover than in ice-free waters. But this influence, apparent at 50 m depth, does not propagate downward below 150 m depth, likely due to the weak biological pump in the central Canada Basin. Branched fatty acids have δ13C values that are similar to suspended POC at all depths and are more 13C-enriched than even-numbered saturated fatty acids at depths above 3000 m. These are likely to be produced in situ by heterotrophic bacteria incorporating organic carbon that is isotopically similar to total suspended POC. Below surface waters, there is also the suggestion of a source of saturated even-numbered fatty acids which could represent contributions from laterally advected organic carbon and/or from chemoautotrophic bacteria. At 3000 m depth and below, a greater relative abundance of long-chain (C20–24), branched and unsaturated fatty acids is consistent with a stronger influence of re-suspended sedimentary organic carbon. At these deep depths, two individual fatty acids (C12 and iso-C17) are significantly depleted in 13C, allowing for the possibility that methane oxidizing bacteria contribute fatty acids, either directly to suspended particulate matter or to shallow sediments that are subsequently mobilized and incorporated into suspended particulate matter within the deep basin.