We have investigated the distributions and carbon isotopic compositions of archaeal membrane lipids in gas-hydrate-bearing sediments collected from the northern Cascadia Margin offshore from Vancouver Island (Sites U1327 and U1328) by the R/V JOIDES Resolution during IODP Expedition 311. Archaeal lipid biomarkers, including glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs), tend to become abundant below 100mbsf (meters below sea floor). Tricyclic biphytane (BP; which is a robust biomarker derived from GDGT), crenarchaeol, and other BPs exhibit δ13C values of ca. -20‰, and become abundant between 130 and 230mbsf at Site U1328. In this depth range, concentrations of ammonium and phosphate in interstitial waters also increase, suggesting that a larger population and higher activity of heterotrophic community consisting of crenarchaeota and other archaea decompose the sedimentary organic matter, thereby liberating ammonium and phosphate. Such crenarchaeotic activity can produce other metabolic products such as molecular hydrogen by fermentation of organic matter during diagenesis. Furthermore, near the organic matter decomposition zone (130 to 230mbsf), a probable methanogen biomarker (13C-depleted BP with δ13C values as low as -48.8‰) becomes abundant, indicating that methanogens utilize these diagenetic products. The molecular and isotopic distributions of archaeal lipid biomarkers indicate that the archaeal community plays an important role in the biogeochemical cycles of deep-sea sediments, including both methanogenesis and nutrient recycling.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology