Evidence of moisture control on the methylation of branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers in semi-arid and arid soils

Xinyue Dang, Huan Yang, B. David A. Naafs, Richard D. Pancost, Shucheng Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

60 Citations (Scopus)
301 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The distribution of bacterial branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) is influenced by growth temperature and pH. This results in the widespread application of the brGDGT-based MBT(‘)/CBT proxy (MBT-methylation of branched tetraethers, CBT-cyclization of branched tetraethers) in terrestrial paleo-environmental reconstructions. Recently, it was shown that the amount of precipitation could also have an impact on CBT, as well as the abundance of brGDGTs relative to that of archaeal isoprenoidal (iso)GDGTs (Ri/b) and the absolute abundance of brGDGTs, potentially complicating the use of MBT/CBT as paleothermometer. However, the full influence of hydrology, and in particular soil water content (SWC), on GDGT distributions remains unclear. Here we investigated variations in the GDGT distribution across a SWC gradient (0-61%) around Qinghai Lake in the Tibetan Plateau, an arid to semiarid region in China. Our results demonstrate that SWC affects the brGDGT distribution. In particular, we show that SWC has a clear impact on the degree of methylation of C6-methylated brGDGTs, whereas C5-methylated brGDGTs are more impacted by temperature. This results in a combined SWC and temperature control on MBT’. In this context we propose a diagnostic parameter, the IR6ME (relative abundance of C6-methylated GDGTs) index, to evaluate the applicability of brGDGT-based paleotemperature reconstructions. Using the global dataset, expanded with our own data, MBT’ has a significant correlation with mean annual air temperature when IR6ME < 0.5, allowing for the use of MBT’/CBT as temperature proxy. However, MBT’ has a significant correlation with mean annual precipitation (i.e., a substantial reflection of SWC impact) when IR6ME > 0.5, implying that MBT’ may respond to hydrological change in these regions and can be used as a proxy for MAP.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-36
Number of pages13
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Volume189
Early online date6 Jun 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2016

Keywords

  • Soil water content
  • MBT
  • C6-methylated brGDGTs
  • Precipitation
  • Semi-arid and arid region

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