Aeolian transport and deposition of plant wax n-alkanes across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean

Laura T. Schreuder, Jan Berend W. Stuut, Laura F. Korte, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté, Stefan Schouten

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Long chain n-alkanes are terrestrial higher plant biomarkers analysed in marine sedimentary archives to reconstruct continental palaeoclimatic and palaeohydrological conditions. Latitudinal variation in their concentration and distribution in marine sediments relatively close to the continent has been widely studied, but little is known on the extent to which this continental signal extends to the ocean. Furthermore, no studies have examined the seasonal variation in the deposition of these biomarkers in marine sediments. Here we studied longitudinal variation in the composition of long chain n-alkanes and two other terrestrial higher plant biomarkers (long chain n-alkanols and long chain fatty acids) in atmospheric particles, as well as longitudinal and seasonal variation in long chain n-alkanes in sinking particles in the ocean at different water depths and in surface sediments, all collected along a 12°N transect across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. The highest abundance of all three biomarker classes was closest to the African coast, as expected, because they are transported with Saharan dust and the largest part of the dust is deposited close to the source. At this proximal location, the seasonal variability in long chain n-alkane flux and the chain length distribution of the n-alkanes in sinking particles was most pronounced, due to seasonal change in the dust source or to change in vegetation composition in the source area, related to the position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). In contrast, in the open ocean the seasonal variability in both the long chain n-alkane flux and chain length distribution of the n-alkanes was low. The abundance of the alkanes was also lower, as expected because of the larger source-to-sink distance. At the western part of the transect, close to South America, we found an additional source of the alkanes in the sinking particles during spring and autumn in the year 2013. The δ13C values of the alkanes in the surface sediment closest to the South American continent indicated that the isotope signal was likely derived from C3 vegetation from the Amazon, implying an input from the Amazon River, as there is no significant aeolian input from South America there since the prevailing wind direction is from the east. Finally, the concentration of the alkanes was similar in the material collected from the atmosphere, the particles collected while settling through the marine water column, and in the surface sediments, providing evidence that degradation of long chain n-alkanes from the atmosphere to settling at the sediment–water interface at deep open ocean sites is minimal.

LanguageEnglish
Pages113-123
Number of pages11
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
Volume115
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018

Fingerprint

Alkanes
Waxes
wax
alkane
Sediments
Biomarkers
biomarker
Dust
dust
Chain length
open ocean
marine sediment
North Atlantic Ocean
Water
transect
seasonal variation
sediment
Fluxes
atmospheric particle
atmosphere

Keywords

  • Higher plant biomarkers
  • Long chain n-alkanes
  • Saharan dust
  • Tropical North Atlantic Ocean

Cite this

Schreuder, Laura T. ; Stuut, Jan Berend W. ; Korte, Laura F. ; Sinninghe Damsté, Jaap S. ; Schouten, Stefan. / Aeolian transport and deposition of plant wax n-alkanes across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. In: Organic Geochemistry. 2018 ; Vol. 115. pp. 113-123
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abstract = "Long chain n-alkanes are terrestrial higher plant biomarkers analysed in marine sedimentary archives to reconstruct continental palaeoclimatic and palaeohydrological conditions. Latitudinal variation in their concentration and distribution in marine sediments relatively close to the continent has been widely studied, but little is known on the extent to which this continental signal extends to the ocean. Furthermore, no studies have examined the seasonal variation in the deposition of these biomarkers in marine sediments. Here we studied longitudinal variation in the composition of long chain n-alkanes and two other terrestrial higher plant biomarkers (long chain n-alkanols and long chain fatty acids) in atmospheric particles, as well as longitudinal and seasonal variation in long chain n-alkanes in sinking particles in the ocean at different water depths and in surface sediments, all collected along a 12°N transect across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. The highest abundance of all three biomarker classes was closest to the African coast, as expected, because they are transported with Saharan dust and the largest part of the dust is deposited close to the source. At this proximal location, the seasonal variability in long chain n-alkane flux and the chain length distribution of the n-alkanes in sinking particles was most pronounced, due to seasonal change in the dust source or to change in vegetation composition in the source area, related to the position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). In contrast, in the open ocean the seasonal variability in both the long chain n-alkane flux and chain length distribution of the n-alkanes was low. The abundance of the alkanes was also lower, as expected because of the larger source-to-sink distance. At the western part of the transect, close to South America, we found an additional source of the alkanes in the sinking particles during spring and autumn in the year 2013. The δ13C values of the alkanes in the surface sediment closest to the South American continent indicated that the isotope signal was likely derived from C3 vegetation from the Amazon, implying an input from the Amazon River, as there is no significant aeolian input from South America there since the prevailing wind direction is from the east. Finally, the concentration of the alkanes was similar in the material collected from the atmosphere, the particles collected while settling through the marine water column, and in the surface sediments, providing evidence that degradation of long chain n-alkanes from the atmosphere to settling at the sediment–water interface at deep open ocean sites is minimal.",
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Aeolian transport and deposition of plant wax n-alkanes across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. / Schreuder, Laura T.; Stuut, Jan Berend W.; Korte, Laura F.; Sinninghe Damsté, Jaap S.; Schouten, Stefan.

In: Organic Geochemistry, Vol. 115, 01.01.2018, p. 113-123.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Schreuder LT, Stuut JBW, Korte LF, Sinninghe Damsté JS, Schouten S. Aeolian transport and deposition of plant wax n-alkanes across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. Organic Geochemistry. 2018 Jan 1;115:113-123. Available from, DOI: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2017.10.010