Paleo-Reconstruction of Carbon Cycling in Large-River Delta-Front Estuaries: Use of Molecular Biomarkers

Monday, 15 December 2014: 8:15 AM
Thomas S Bianchi, University of Florida, Geological Sciences, Gainesville, FL, United States
The burial of organic carbon (OC) in river deltas and continental margins worldwide account for approximately 90% of the carbon burial in the ocean. In particular, sediments in large-river delta-front estuaries have been shown to be repositories and integrators of land-use change across expansive watersheds that drain the continents to the ocean. Thus, separating natural and human-driven changes in the transport of terrestrial organic carbon (TOC) to ocean is important in understanding the effects of climate change on TOC fluxes. Molecular biomarkers of TOC (e.g., lignin phenols, fatty acids, sterols) in LDE sediments have been used extensively to reconstruct of carbon cycling changes that are reflective of land-use change in the watersheds. However, due to the highly variable hydrologic regimes across continents, continental margins (e.g., active versus passive), and coastal dynamics in LDEs, the fate and transport of these molecular biomarkers varies considerably. Here I will discuss some of the key molecular biomarkers that have been used to date in such historical reconstruction exercises in LDEs (e.g., Mississippi/Atchafalaya, Yangtze, Yellow, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Colville Rivers), and explore how margin-type, residence time of transport, redox, and molecular stability, to name a few, impact the utility of using different biomarkers in paleo-reconstruction studies.