Organic matter distribution in the modern sediments of the Pearl River Estuary

Strong, David J.; Flecker, Rachel; Valdes, Paul J.; Wilkinson, Ian P.; Rees, John G.; Zong, Yong Qiang; Lloyd, Jeremy M.; Garrett, Edmund; Pancost, Richard D.. 2012 Organic matter distribution in the modern sediments of the Pearl River Estuary. Organic Geochemistry, 49. 68-82.

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We determined biomarker concentrations and distributions for surface sediments from 54 sites in the Pearl River Estuary, China. We focus on a suite of four biomarker-based indicators for relative terrestrial to marine organic matter (OM) source: the branched-isoprenoid tetraether (BIT) index, the ratio of high/low molecular weight n-alcohols [(ΣC26–34/(ΣC16+18 + ΣC26–34)], an analogous ratio for n-fatty acids and the ΣC29-steroids/(ΣC29-steroids + brassicasterol) ratio. All four exhibit the same terrestrial to marine transition seen in previous bulk δ13C studies, but with an abrupt decrease in the relative terrestrial contribution across the delta front to pro-delta transition. Concentrations of terrestrially-derived biomarkers show no systematic decrease across the transition. Instead, the decrease in the proportion of terrestrial OM is due to a decrease in the sedimentation rate and associated terrestrial OM burial across the delta toe. This suggests that diagenetic controls on the fate of terrestrial OM, such as increased biodegradation where sedimentation rate is low, are subordinate to sedimentological processes. Biomarker-derived temperature values are cooler than expected for the lower Pearl River catchment, suggesting that the dominant component of the terrestrial OM is derived from the cooler upland regions of the catchment. The dominance of input from more distal terrain with greater topographic relief is evidence for the importance of geomorphological control on terrigenous OM transport. Collectively, the results demonstrate the importance of sedimentological processes in the supply, deposition and transport of terrestrial OM.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > BGS Corporate
ISSN: 01466380
Date made live: 11 Apr 2013 13:21 +0 (UTC)

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