Pigment carbon and nitrogen isotopic signatures in euxinic basins

J. M. Fulton, M. A. Arthur, B. Thomas, K. H. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The carbon and nitrogen isotopic signatures of chloropigments and porphyrins from the sediments of redox-stratified lakes and marine basins reveal details of past biogeochemical nutrient cycling. Such interpretations are strengthened by modern calibration studies, and here, we report on the C and N isotopic composition of pigments and nutrients in the water column and surface sediment of redox-stratified Fayetteville Green Lake (FGL; New York). We also report δ13C and δ15N values for pyropheophytin a (Pphe a) and bacteriochlorophyll e (Bchl e) deposited in the Black Sea during its transition to a redox-stratified basin ca. 7.8 ka. We propose a model for evolving nutrient cycling in the Black Sea from 7.8 to 6.4 ka, informed by the new pigment data from FGL. The seasonal study of water column nutrients and pigments at FGL revealed population dynamics in surface and deep waters that were also captured in the sediments. Biomass was greatest near the chemocline, where cyanobacteria, purple sulfur bacteria (PSB), and green sulfur bacteria (GSB) had seasonally variable populations. Bulk organic matter in the surface sediment, however, was derived mainly from the oxygenated surface waters. Surface sediment pigment δ13C and δ15N values indicate intact chlorophyll a (Chl a) was derived from near the chemocline, but its degradation product pheophytin a (Phe a) was derived primarily from surface waters. Bacteriopheophytin a (Bphe a) and Bchl e in the sediments came from chemocline populations of PSB and GSB, respectively. The distinctive δ13C and δ15N values for Chl a, Phe a, and Bphe a in the surface sediment are inputs to an isotopic mixing model that shows their decomposition to a common porphyrin derivative can produce non-specific sedimentary isotope signatures. This model serves as a caveat for paleobiogeochemical interpretations in basins that had diverse populations near a shallow chemocline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-445
Number of pages17
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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