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Bacterial tetraether membrane lipids in peat and coal: Testing the MBT-CBT temperature proxy for climate reconstruction
Weijers, J.W.H.; Steinmann, P.; Hopmans, E.C.; Schouten, S.; Sinninghe Damsté, J.S. (2011). Bacterial tetraether membrane lipids in peat and coal: Testing the MBT-CBT temperature proxy for climate reconstruction. Org. Geochem. 42(5): 477-486. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.orggeochem.2011.03.013
In: Organic Geochemistry. Elsevier: Oxford; New York. ISSN 0146-6380, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Weijers, J.W.H.
  • Steinmann, P.
  • Hopmans, E.C., more
  • Schouten, S., more
  • Sinninghe Damsté, J.S., more

Abstract
    Peatlands are widespread and important natural archives of environmental change. Here we explore the potential of the recently introduced MBT-CBT proxy (methylation index and cyclisation ratio of branched tetraethers) to estimate past annual mean air temperature (MAT) based on the distribution of bacterially-derived branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether (GDGT) membrane lipids in peat and coal. To this end, branched GDGTs in an ombrotrophic peat bog from Switzerland and three coal deposits of increasing maturity were analysed.
    For the surface of the bog, reconstructed annual MAT is higher than both measured annual MAT and measured in situ pore water temperature. Changes in the CBT ratio, considered a proxy for pH, with depth in the bog do not match with present day in situ pore water pH, but coincide with a peat stratigraphic boundary. This indicates that GDGTs down the bog profile are predominantly fossil and not derived from extant biomass. The MBT-CBT derived annual MAT record also shows a large drop at this stratigraphic boundary, which likely relates to past change in trophic status of the bog. Branched GDGTs are abundant in an immature lignite (vitrinite reflectance, R-o 0.25%), but occur in low amount in a slightly more mature coal (R-o 0.32%). Annual MAT could be reconstructed for the lignite alone and is higher than other proxy-based estimates from approximately the same time and location.
    Our results indicate potential for the application of the MBT-CBT proxy in peat and immature coals, but improved constraints on the effects of different types of peat on branched GDGT distributions as well as improved calibration of MAT estimates are needed before the method can be confidently applied.

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