Diatom Seasonal Abundance, Assemblages and Lipid Biomarkers: Towards a More Robust Reconstruction of Diatom Paleoproductivity

Friday, 19 December 2014
Celia Santos1,2, Diana Zuniga1,2, Jens Hefter3, Maria Frójan4, Emilia Salgueiro1, Carmen G Castro4, Francisco Figueiras4, Enno Schefuß5, Gesine Mollenhauer3 and Fatima F G Abrantes1, (1)Instituto Port Mar e Atmosfera, Lisbon, Portugal, (2)CIMAR, Associated Laboratory, Porto, Portugal, (3)Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine Research Bremerhaven, Bremerhaven, Germany, (4)Instituto de Investigacións Mariñas – CSIC, Vigo, Spain, (5)MARUM - University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
Diatoms are the dominant phytoplankton class in coastal upwelling systems, accounting for a large proportion of global primary production. Their frustules preserved in sediments are powerful paleoceanographic and paleoproductivity proxies. However, despite high diatom abundance in the water column, they are frequently affected by dissolution and their sedimentary record is discontinuous. A more robust reconstruction independent of preservation characteristics in the sediments would thus be desirable. Lipid biomarkers have a specific structure that might remain intact in the sediments and may be better preserved under conditions corrosive to diatom frustules. This research aims to investigate the organic imprint of upwelling-related diatom species, which may allow the reconstruction of past primary productivity in areas where diatoms are not preserved in the sediments.

To better understand the preservation and chemical signature of diatoms in the sedimentary record, we are studying diatom abundance, assemblages and lipid biomarkers in samples from the water column, sediment traps, surface sediments and diatom cultures recovered at the Iberian Margin. This study aims 1) to understand the present-day seasonal abundance and diversity of diatoms, their relation to the hydrographic conditions, along with their transfer/preservation pathways into the sediments; 2) to identify the major groups of lipid biomarkers related with upwelling diatom species in this area.

Diatom abundances and assemblages observed in the water column and sediment traps evidence seasonal primary productivity. Sediment traps and surface sediment samples are dominated by Leptocylindrus spp. and Chaetoceros spp. resting spores, suggesting these genera as productivity tracers.

Preliminary results of the biomarkers study show that sterols, known to be one of the major groups of biomarkers related to diatoms, occur in different composition and concentration in the analyzed diatom cultures, water column and sediment trap samples. Others known diatom related lipid biomarkers, namely highly branched isoprenoids and long - chain diols, are also being investigated.