Determination of sediment provenance at drift sites using hydrogen isotopes and unsaturation ratios in alkenones

  • Englebrecht A
  • Sachs J
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The large (∼20‰) hydrogen isotopic gradient in surface waters of the northwest Atlantic Ocean is exploited to track changes in the source of alkenones to the Bermuda Rise sediment drift. Cultures of the predominant alkenone-producing coccolithophorid, E. huxleyi, were grown in deuterium-enriched seawater and shown to possess alkenones with a D/H ratio that closely tracked the water D/H ratio (r2= 0.999, n = 5 isotopic enrichments) with a fractionation factor (α) between 0.732 and 0.775. A hydrogen isotopic depletion of -193 ± 3‰ (n = 9) was measured in alkenones from suspended particles relative to seawater in the subpolar and subtropical northwest Atlantic Ocean. This value was used to calculate the water δD values in which alkenones from Bermuda Rise sediment were synthesized, and by extension, the water mass in which they were produced. Applying this technique we find that 60% to 100% of the alkenones in late Holocene Bermuda Rise sediment were produced in deuterium-depleted subpolar water to the northwest of the drift. To reconcile values of the alkenone unsaturation ratio (Uk′37), a widely used proxy for sea surface temperature, with the δD values of alkenones in late Holocene sediments from the Bermuda Rise at least three sources of sediment must be invoked: a cold, very isotopically depleted source, almost certain to be the Scotian Margin; a warm, moderately isotopically-depleted source, likely to be the northwestern edge of the subtropical gyre; and a cold, isotopically enriched source, which we hypothesize to be the subpolar waters overlying the main branch of North Atlantic Deep Water flowing southwest from the Nordic Seas. Copyright © 2005 Elsevier Ltd.

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  • Amy C. Englebrecht

  • Julian P. Sachs

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