Articles | Volume 13, issue 20
Biogeosciences, 13, 5883–5894, 2016
Biogeosciences, 13, 5883–5894, 2016

Research article 28 Oct 2016

Research article | 28 Oct 2016

Ubiquitous production of branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) in global marine environments: a new source indicator for brGDGTs

Wenjie Xiao1,2, Yinghui Wang2, Shangzhe Zhou2, Limin Hu3, Huan Yang4, and Yunping Xu1,2 Wenjie Xiao et al.
  • 1Shanghai Engineering Research Center of Hadal Science and Technology, College of Marine Sciences, Shanghai Ocean University, 201306 Shanghai, China
  • 2MOE Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Process, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, 100871 Beijing, China
  • 3Key Laboratory of Marine Sedimentology and Environmental Geology, First Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanic Administration, 266061 Qingdao, China
  • 4State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology, China University of Geosciences, 430074 Wuhan, China

Abstract. Presumed source specificity of branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) from bacteria thriving in soil/peat and isoprenoid GDGTs (iGDGTs) from aquatic organisms led to the development of several biomarker proxies for biogeochemical cycle and paleoenvironmental reconstructions. However, recent studies reveal that brGDGTs are also produced in aquatic environments besides soils and peat. Here we examined three cores from the Bohai Sea, and found distinct difference in brGDGT compositions varying with the distance from the Yellow River mouth. We thus propose an abundance ratio of hexamethylated to pentamethylated brGDGT (IIIa ∕ IIa) to evaluate brGDGT sources. The compilation of globally distributed 1354 marine sediments and 589 soils shows that the IIIa ∕ IIa ratio is generally < 0.59 in soils and 0.59–0.92 and > 0.92 in marine sediments with and without significant terrestrial inputs, respectively. Such disparity confirms the existence of two sources for brGDGTs, a terrestrial origin with lower IIIa ∕ IIa and a marine origin with higher IIIa ∕ IIa, which is likely attributed to a generally higher pH and the production of brGDGTs in cold deep water in marine waters. The application of the IIIa ∕ IIa ratio to the East Siberian Arctic Shelf proves it to be a sensitive source indicator for brGDGTs, which is helpful for accurate estimation of organic carbon source and paleoclimates in marine settings.

Final-revised paper