Paleo-environmental imprint on microbiology and biogeochemistry of coastal quaternary sediments

  • Beck M
  • Riedel T
  • Graue J
  • et al.
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To date, North Sea tidal flat sediments have been intensively studied down to a depth of 5m below sea floor (mbsf). However, little is known about the biogeochemistry, microbial abundance, and activity of sulfate reducers as well of methanogens in deeper layers. 5 For this study, we hypothesized that the imprint of the paleo-environment is reflected in current microbiogeochemical processes. Therefore, 20 m-long cores were retrieved from the tidal-flat area of Spiekeroog Island, NW Germany. Two drill sites were selected with a close distance of only 900 meters, but where sedimentation occurred under different environmental conditions: first, a paleo-channel filled with 10 Holocene sediments and second, a mainly Pleistocene sedimentary succession. In general, the numbers of bacterial 16S rRNA genes are one to two orders of magnitude higher than those of Archaea. The abundances of key genes for sulfate reduction and methanogenesis (dsrA and mcrA) correspond to the sulfate and methane profiles. A co-variance of these key genes at sulfate-methane interfaces and enhanced potential 15 AOM rates suggest that anaerobic oxidation of methane may occur in these layers. Microbial and biogeochemical profiles are vertically stretched relative to 5 m-deep cores from shallower sediments in the same study area. Compared to the deep marine environment, the profiles are transitional between the shallow subsurface and the marine deep biosphere. Our interdisciplinary analysis shows that the microbial abundances 20 and metabolic rates are elevated in the Holocene compared to Pleistocene sediments. However, this is mainly due to present environmental conditions such as pore water flow and organic matter availability. The paleo-environmental imprint is still visible but superimposed by these processes.




Beck, M., Riedel, T., Graue, J., Köster, J., Kowalski, N., Wu, C. S., … Engelen, B. (2010). Paleo-environmental imprint on microbiology and biogeochemistry of coastal quaternary sediments. Biogeosciences Discussions, 7(4), 5463–5496.

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