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Journal Article

Amino acid and chlorin based degradation indicators in freshwater systems


Larsen,  Thomas
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Stücheli, P. E., Larsen, T., Wehrli, B., & Schubert, C. J. (2021). Amino acid and chlorin based degradation indicators in freshwater systems. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 304, 216-233. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2021.04.006.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-B2A8-1
Lakes cover a global area that is about 35 times smaller than the oceans, but carbon burial in lakes and oceans are on the same order of magnitude. Hence, understanding the processes for such high organic carbon burial in lacustrine systems is essential. We applied proxies typically used for marine environments including amino acid (AA) content and their nitrogen stable isotope composition to the water columns and sediments of three lakes that differ in their trophic states and depositions rates of sedimentary terrestrial organic matter. Additionally, we used carbon isotope fingerprinting of AAs to characterise their sources and fates. We show that this set of proxies tracks sources and degradation processes in eutrophic lakes with high sedimentary total organic carbon and nitrogen content. Those lakes also have a high total hydrolysable amino acid (THAA) content as well as higher pigment concentrations. While the Chlorin degradation Index (CI) showed increasing values with depth, the patterns were less consistent for the Degradation Index (DI). In general, all parameters failed to describe degradation in the most oligotrophic lake due to the very low organic carbon and nitrogen content in the sediment. We show that AAs are mostly of autochthonous origin and that AA contribute 5–45% to the organic material in plankton, POM, and sediment. Proxies based on AA for bacterial reworking (ΣV) or trophic level (TL) showed increasing values in the water column but relatively stable values in the sediments. Furthermore, we show that methanotrophic bacteria led to increased values for the bacterial reworking proxy (ΣV) and extraordinarily low δ13C AA values (−30 to −60‰).