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Signatures of tetraether lipids reveal anthropogenic overprinting of natural organic matter in sediments of the Thames Estuary, UK

Lopez dos Santos, Raquel A.; Vane, Christopher H.. 2016 Signatures of tetraether lipids reveal anthropogenic overprinting of natural organic matter in sediments of the Thames Estuary, UK. Organic Geochemistry, 93. 68-76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orggeochem.2016.01.003

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Abstract/Summary

Intertidal foreshore sediments from a 110 km stretch of the Thames Estuary were analysed for glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs) to track soil organic matter (OM) input and evaluate the impact of coastal urbanisation on their distribution. Concentration of branched (br)GDGTs ranged from < 1 to 15 μg/g organic carbon (OC) and crenarchaeol ranged from 0.6 to 19 μg/g OC. An overall decrease in brGDGTs was observed from the inner Thames (Brentford) to the outer Thames (Isle of Grain), suggesting a drop in soil OM input towards the sea. In contrast, crenarchaeol concentration was highest around east London rather than towards the open sea. Such elevated crenarchaeol concentration occurred in the section of the river most influenced by anthropogenic pollution, such as discharge points for London’s major sewage treatment plants, docks and power plants. The non-systematic spatial distribution of crenarchaeol was also reflected in the branched isoprenoid tetraether (BIT) index. The highest BIT values occurred upstream and in close proximity to salt marshes (0.8–1), whereas the lowest values (0.3–0.5) were towards the sea. However, unusually low values (0.4) were observed in the river section that had high crenarchaeol concentration. In contrast, bulk δ13C values were insensitive to London’s anthropogenic influence. This suggests that the natural systematic decrease in BIT index in the estuary is overprinted by London’s anthropogenic activity between Deptford Creek and Tilbury. We therefore advise caution when interpreting the BIT index for sediments in close proximity to megacities discharging industrial and municipal waste that can become incorporated into the near surface sedimentary record.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orggeochem.2016.01.003
ISSN: 01466380
Date made live: 09 Feb 2016 15:25 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/512915

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