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Exploring the composition of macromolecular organic matter in Arctic Ocean sediments under a changing sea ice gradient

Stevenson, Mark A., Abbott, Geoffrey D.
Journal of analytical and applied pyrolysis 2019 v.140 pp. 102-111
algae, climate change, fish, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, ice, organic carbon, phytoplankton, pyridines, pyrolysis, rapid methods, screening, sediments, summer, water temperature, zooplankton, Arctic region, Barents Sea, Norway
Arctic sea ice has been affected by climate change, leading to reductions in summer sea ice extent over the past few decades, impacting nutrient dynamics, ocean temperature fluxes and the biological communities present in the ocean. Marine organic matter is a complex mixture of differentially degraded terrestrial and marine organisms from a range of sources and time periods. In this study pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC–MS) has been used to quantify the solvent-insoluble component of marine organic matter in surface sediments to gain a more holistic understanding of the macromolecular composition at five stations along a south to north transect in the Arctic Barents Sea, east of Svalbard (depths 288–334 m.b.s.l). Two methods were compared to identify the effectiveness of rapid screening, in contrast to grouping similar pyrolysis products. There were changes in macromolecular composition of marine surface sediments across the S-N transect using both methods, highlighting the varying benthic and pelagic communities north of the Polar Front and across the variable sea ice margin, corresponding to differing biological communities (e.g. fish, phytoplankton, ice algae, zooplankton). All five stations across the changing sea ice transect were interpreted as having primarily marine surface sediment macromolecular signatures, given their locations far from major terrestrial inputs and the more subtle changes when compared with previous investigations on the East Siberian Artic shelf. Fluctuations in macromolecular compositions across the transect included increasing N-containing compounds (including pyridines) and n-alkene/n-alkane doublet pyrolysis products from sediments collected in stations with the greatest average ice cover. If the future position of the Polar Front moves northwards then deposition of labile organic matter which appears to be efficiently processed will move further north, meaning greater deposition of organic carbon under areas of open ocean. Future research needs to understand how this OC will be buried and if it is regionally significant, given anticipated weakening stratification and a more Atlantic influenced northern Barents Sea.