Articles | Volume 12, issue 23
Biogeosciences, 12, 7239–7249, 2015
Biogeosciences, 12, 7239–7249, 2015

Research article 10 Dec 2015

Research article | 10 Dec 2015

Testing the D / H ratio of alkenones and palmitic acid as salinity proxies in the Amazon Plume

C. Häggi1, C. M. Chiessi2, and E. Schefuß1 C. Häggi et al.
  • 1MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 2School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Abstract. The stable hydrogen isotope composition of lipid biomarkers, such as alkenones, is a promising new tool for the improvement of palaeosalinity reconstructions. Laboratory studies confirmed the correlation between lipid biomarker δD composition (δDLipid), water δD composition (δDH2O) and salinity; yet there is limited insight into the applicability of this proxy in oceanic environments. To fill this gap, we test the use of the δD composition of alkenones (δDC37) and palmitic acid (δDPA) as salinity proxies using samples of surface suspended material along the distinct salinity gradient induced by the Amazon Plume. Our results indicate a positive correlation between salinity and δDH2O, while the relationship between δDH2O and δDLipid is more complex: δDPAM correlates strongly with δDH2O (r2 = 0.81) and shows a salinity-dependent isotopic fractionation factor. δDC37 only correlates with δDH2O in a small number (n = 8) of samples with alkenone concentrations > 10 ng L−1, while there is no correlation if all samples are taken into account. These findings are mirrored by alkenone-based temperature reconstructions, which are inaccurate for samples with low alkenone concentrations. Deviations in δDC37 and temperature are likely to be caused by limited haptophyte algae growth due to low salinity and light limitation imposed by the Amazon Plume. Our study confirms the applicability of δDLipid as a salinity proxy in oceanic environments. But it raises a note of caution concerning regions where low alkenone production can be expected due to low salinity and light limitation, for instance, under strong riverine discharge.

Final-revised paper