Sources and distribution of biomarkers in surficial sediments from a polar marine ecosystem (Potter Cove, King George Island, Antarctica)

Abstract

Sedimentary organic matter (OM) represents the energy supply for the shelf benthos at the Antarctic Ocean, and has yet to be properly characterized in terms of sources and composition for the Potter Cove region, King George/25 de Mayo Island. This energy input occurs mainly during the brief summer and provides the majority of available energy for the year, in a region with high endemism and limited source variety of sedimentary OM. Thus, the aim of this study is to identify the OM origin and degradation degree based on the spatial distribution and type of organic biomarkers. Twelve surficial sediment samples were collected and analyzed for the presence of n-alkanols and sterols. The different spatial patterns between the analyzed compounds indicated distinct OM sources and degradation degrees. First, relatively fresh phytoplankton organic matter and an enhanced bacterial activity were associated with the occurrence of seaweeds detritus and represent the source of n-alkanols. Second, relatively fresh material mainly associated with seaweeds debris were identified as the source of macroalgae sterols. Our results shed some light into the base of the Potter Cove trophic benthic chain and increase our understanding on the region’s biogeochemical processes relating to OM recycling. It also provides a baseline for assessing future changes in the structure of the benthic food web in this environment, which is subject to noticeable glaciers retreat.

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Acknowledgements

A.L.L. Dauner is thankful to CNPq (121444/2010-4) for the B.Sc. scholarship, to CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Ensino Superior) for the M.Sc. scholarship and to Mihael Machado de Souza for the English revision. C.C. Martins is grateful to CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) for the Research Grant (305763/2011-3). This study is related to the Brazilian “National Science and Technology Institute on Antarctic Environmental Research” (INCT-APA, FAPERJ E-16/170023/2008). W.P. Mac Cormack and E.A. Hernández thanks the financial support from the European Commission through the Marie Curie Action IRSES, project no 318718, IMCONet (Interdisciplinary Modelling of climate change in coastal Western Antarctica—Network for staff Exchange and Training) also to the grants PICTO 2010-0124 from the ANPCyT (Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica) and the UBA (Universidad de Buenos Aires CyT 20020100100378).

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Correspondence to Ana Lúcia L. Dauner or César C. Martins.

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Dauner, A.L.L., MacCormack, W.P., Hernández, E.A. et al. Sources and distribution of biomarkers in surficial sediments from a polar marine ecosystem (Potter Cove, King George Island, Antarctica). Polar Biol 40, 2015–2025 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-017-2120-5

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Keywords

  • n-Alkanols
  • Sterols
  • Organic matter
  • Antarctica