Peatland GDGT records of Holocene climatic and biogeochemical responses to the Asian Monsoon

Yanhong Zheng, Qiyuan Li, Zhangzhang Wang, David Naafs, Xuefeng Yu, Rich Pancost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Branched and isoprenoidal glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether (GDGT) membrane lipids have been widely used to reconstruct past climate and environmental change. They are not, however, widely applied to peat deposits and the controls on their distributions in peats remain unclear. Here, we present a high resolution record of branched and isoprenoid GDGT concentrations and distributions from a peat core from the Tibetan Plateau that spans the last 13 kyr, a period characterised by distinct dry and wet periods in the region. The lowest concentrations of total branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) occurred during a presumably dry interval in the mid-Holocene, suggesting that brGDGTs-producing bacteria are less productive under such conditions, perhaps reflecting their putative anaerobic ecology. The mean annual air temperature (MAT) estimates derived from the methylation index of brGDGTs and cyclisation ratio of brGDGTs (MBT0/CBT) are higher than present mean annual temperature in the region and closer to summer temperatures, perhaps due to seasonal production of brGDGTs. The downcore distributions of isoprenoidal and branched GDGTs are dominated by GDGT-0 and brGDGT II, respectively. The high fractional abundances of GDGT-0 in warm and especially wet intervals suggest that these conditions are favourable for some groups of methanogenic archaea. The mid-Holocene dry interval is associated with an increase in the fractional and absolute abundance of crenarchaeol, which could be indicative of enhanced ammonia-oxidising archaeal-mediated nitrogen cycling under these conditions. Taken together, variations of GDGT concentrations in peats appear to document the response of microbial processes to climate change and variations in the biogeochemical environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86
Number of pages95
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2015

Structured keywords

  • Cabot Institute


  • Peatland
  • GDGTs
  • Holocene climate
  • Asian summer monsoon
  • Tibetan Plateau


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