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The use of amino acid indices for assessing organic matter quality and microbial abundance in deep-sea Antarctic sediments of IODP Expedition 318

Publication date:

20 November 2016

Source:Marine Chemistry, Volume 186

Author(s): S.A. Carr, C.T. Mills, K.W. Mandernack

The Adélie Basin, located offshore of the Wilkes Land margin, experiences unusually high sedimentation rates (~2cmyr−1) for the Antarctic coast. This study sought to compare depthwise changes in organic matter (OM) quantity and quality with changes in microbial biomass with depth at this high-deposition site and an offshore continental margin site. Sediments from both sites were collected during the International Ocean Drilling (IODP) Program Expedition 318. Viable microbial biomass was estimated from concentrations of bacterial-derived phospholipid fatty acids, while OM quality was assessed using four different amino acid degradation proxies. Concentrations of total hydrolysable amino acids (THAA) measured from the continental margin suggest an oligotrophic environment, with THAA concentrations representing only 2% of total organic carbon with relative proportions of non-protein amino acids β-alanine and γ-aminobutyric acid as high as 40%. In contrast, THAA concentrations from the near-shore Adélie Basin represent 40%–60% of total organic carbon. Concentrations of β-alanine and γ-aminobutyric acid were often below the detection limit and suggest that the OM of the basin as labile. DI values in surface sediments at the Adélie and margin sites were measured to be +0.78 and −0.76, reflecting labile and more recalcitrant OM, respectively. Greater DI values in deeper and more anoxic portions of both cores correlated positively with increased relative concentrations of phenylalanine plus tyrosine and may represent a change of redox conditions, rather than OM quality. This suggests that DI values calculated along chemical profiles should be interpreted with caution. THAA concentrations, the percentage of organic carbon (CAA%) and total nitrogen (NAA%) represented by amino acids at both sites demonstrated a significant positive correlation with bacterial abundance estimates. These data suggest that the selective degradation of amino acids, as indicated by THAA concentrations, CAA% or NAA% values may be a better proxy for describing the general changes in sedimentary bacterial abundances than total organic matter or bulk sedimentation rates.

Authors:   Author(s): S.A. Carr, C.T. Mills, K.W. Mandernack
Journal:   Marine Chemistry
Year:   2016
Publication date:   16-Oct-2016
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