Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-257
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-257

  05 Oct 2021

05 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Bacteriohopanetetrol-x: constraining its application as a lipid biomarker for marine anammox using the water column oxygen gradient of the Benguela upwelling system

Zoë Rebecca van Kemenade1, Laura Villanueva1,2, Ellen C. Hopmans1, Peter Kraal1, Harry J. Witte1, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté1,2, and Darci Rush1 Zoë Rebecca van Kemenade et al.
  • 1Department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Den Burg, the Netherlands
  • 2Department of Earth Sciences, Geochemistry, Faculty of Geosciences, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Abstract. Interpreting lipid biomarkers in the sediment archive requires a good understanding of their application and limitations in modern systems. Recently it was discovered that marine bacteria performing anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox), belonging to the genus Ca. Scalindua, uniquely synthesize a stereoisomer of bacteriohopanetetrol (‘BHT-x’). The ratio of BHT-x over total bacteriohopanetetrol (BHT; ubiquitously synthesized by diverse bacteria) has been suggested as a proxy for water column anoxia. As BHT has been found in sediments over 50 Myr old, BHT-x has the potential to complement and extend the sedimentary biomarker record of marine anammox, conventionally constructed using ladderane lipids. Yet, little is known about the distribution of BHT-x in relation to the distribution of ladderanes and to the genetic evidence of Ca. Scalindua in modern marine systems. Here, we investigate the distribution of BHT-x and the application of the BHT-x ratio in relation to distributions of intact polar (IPL) ladderane lipids, ladderane fatty acids (FAs) and Ca. Scalindua 16S rRNA genes in suspended particulate matter (SPM) from the water column, sampled across a large oxygen gradient in the Benguela upwelling system (BUS). In BUS SPM, high BHT-x abundances were constrained to the oxygen deficient zone on the continental shelf (at [O2] < 45 µmol L−1, in all but one case). High BHT-x abundances co-occurred with high abundances of the Ca. Scalindua 16S rRNA gene (relative to the total number of bacterial 16S rRNA genes) and ladderane IPLs. At shelf stations with [O2] > 50 µmol L−1, the BHT-x ratio was < 0.04 (in all but one case). In apparent contradiction, ladderane FAs and low abundances of BHT and BHT-x (resulting in BHT-x ratio’s > 0.04) were also detected in oxygenated offshore waters ([O2] up to 180 µmol L−1), whereas ladderane IPLs were undetected. NL5-derived temperatures suggested that ladderane FAs in the offshore waters were not synthesized in situ but derived from warmer shelf waters. Thus, in sedimentary archives of systems with known lateral organic matter transport, such as the BUS, relative BHT and BHT-x abundances should be carefully considered. In such systems, a higher BHT-x ratio may act as a safer threshold for deoxygenation and/or Ca. Scalindua presence: in the BUS, at [O2] > 50 µmol L−1, the BHT-x ratio was < 0.18 at both off -and onshore sites (in all but one case) and a ratio > 0.18 corresponded in all cases (except one) with the presence of Ca. Scalindua 16S rRNA genes. Lastly, when investigating in situ anammox, we highlight the importance of using ladderane IPLs over BHT-x and/or ladderane FAs; these latter compounds are more recalcitrant and may derive from transported fossil anammox bacteria remnants.

Zoë Rebecca van Kemenade et al.

Status: open (until 16 Nov 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Zoë Rebecca van Kemenade et al.

Zoë Rebecca van Kemenade et al.

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Short summary
Anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) is an important nitrogen-removal process in the ocean. We assess the distribution of bacteriohopanetetrol-x (BHT-x), used to trace past anammox, along a redox gradient in the water column of the Benguela upwelling system. BHT-x/BHT ratios of > 0.18 correspond to the presence of living anammox bacteria and oxygen levels < 50 μmol L−1. This allows for a more robust application of BHT-x to trace past marine anammox and deoxygenation in dynamic marine systems.
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