Paleoceanography

Stable carbon isotope patterns of marine biomarker lipids in the Arctic Ocean during Eocene Thermal Maximum 2

Authors

  • Petra L. Schoon,

    1. Department of Marine Organic Biogeochemistry, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Den Burg, Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Appy Sluijs,

    1. Biomarine Sciences, Laboratory of Palaeobotany and Palynology, Institute of Environmental Biology, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté,

    1. Department of Marine Organic Biogeochemistry, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Den Burg, Netherlands
    2. Department of Earth Sciences–Geochemistry, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Stefan Schouten

    1. Department of Marine Organic Biogeochemistry, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Den Burg, Netherlands
    2. Department of Earth Sciences–Geochemistry, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

[1] The middle Paleocene through early Eocene long-term gradual warming was superimposed by several transient warming events, such as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) and Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (ETM2). Both events show evidence for extreme global warming associated with a major injection of carbon into the ocean-atmosphere system, but the mechanisms of carbon injection and many aspects of the environmental response are still poorly understood. In this study, we analyzed the concentration and stable carbon isotopic (δ13C) composition of several sulfur-bound biomarkers derived from marine photoautotrophs, deposited in the Arctic Ocean at ∼85°N, during ETM2. The presence of sulfur-bound biomarkers across this event points toward high primary productivity and anoxic bottom water conditions. The previously reported presence of isorenieratene derivatives indicates euxinic conditions in the photic zone, likely caused by a combination of enhanced primary productivity and salinity stratification. The negative carbon isotope excursion measured at the onset of ETM2 for several biomarkers, ranges between 3‰ and 4.5‰, much larger than the ∼1.4‰ recorded in marine carbonates elsewhere, suggesting substantial enhanced isotopic fractionation by the primary producers likely due to a significant rise in pCO2. In the absence of biogenic carbonates in the ETM2 section of our core we use coeval planktonic δ13C from elsewhere to estimate surface water δ13C in the Arctic Ocean and then apply the relation between isotopic fractionation and pCO2, originally calibrated for haptophyte alkenones, to three selected organic biomarkers (i.e., S-bound phytane, C35 hopane, and a C25 highly branched isoprenoid). This yields pCO2 values potentially in the range of four times preindustrial levels. However, these estimates are uncertain because of a lack of knowledge on the importance of pCO2 on photosynthetic isotopic fractionation.

Ancillary