PUBLICATION: Differential dissolution of biogenic silica significantly affects the utility of sediment diatoms as paleoceanographic proxies
by Lihua Ran |
Diatoms and biogenic silica (biogenic Si) in sediments are commonly analyzed as paleoceanographic environmental indicators. However, the correspondence between these sedimentary components and their counterparts in the water column above can vary over time and space. This study, undertaken in the northern South China Sea, compares diatoms and biogenic Si in sinking particles from the water column with those in surface sediments below. The results indicate substantial losses of diatoms and biogenic Si during sinking and burial, along with changes in diatom assemblages. About 6% of diatoms sinking from 1000 m depth are estimated to be preserved in sediments: 32% are recycled in the water column and 62% are lost at the sediment–water interface. Approximately 12% of biogenic Si is preserved in sediments: 6% is remineralized in the water column and 82% is lost at the sediment–water interface. The differences between diatom and biogenic Si preservation and remineralization are likely due to differences in dissolution resistance among the various diatom species and between diatoms and other silicifiers (e.g., radiolarians), along with effects of lateral transport. This variability introduces uncertainties into paleoceanographic inferences made from these two proxies from the sediments. Thalassionema nitzschioides was found to dominate sediment assemblages, which we attribute to its great resistance to dissolution, and to be negatively correlated with diatom sinking fluxes. These properties suggest that in the northern South China Sea, T. nitzschioides may potentially be useful as an indicator of low paleoproductivity (e.g., as seen during strong El Niño events).
Ran et al. 2024. Differential dissolution of biogenic silica significantly affects the utility of sediment diatoms as paleoceanographic proxies. Limnology and Oceanography https://doi.org/10.1002/lno.12492