Biomarker characterization of the North Water Polynya, Baffin Bay: Implications for local sea ice and temperature proxies Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. The North Water Polynya (NOW, Greenlandic Inuit: Pikialasorsuaq), Baffin Bay, is the largest polynya and one of the most productive regions in the Arctic. This area of thin to absent sea ice is a critical moisture source for local ice sheet sustenance and coupled with the inflow of nutrient-rich Arctic Surface Water, supports a diverse community of Arctic fauna and indigenous people. Although paleoceanographic records can provide critical insight into the NOW’s past behavior, it is critical that we fully understand the modern functionality of the paleoceanographic proxies beforehand. In this study, we analyzed lipid biomarkers, including algal highly-branched isoprenoids and sterols for sea ice extent and pelagic productivity, and algal alkenones and archaeal GDGTs for ocean temperature, in a suite of modern surface sediment samples from within and around the NOW. Our data show that all highly-branched isoprenoids exhibit strong correlations with each other and show highest concentrations within the NOW, which suggests a spring/autumn sea ice diatom source rather than a combination of sea ice and open water diatoms as seen elsewhere in the Arctic. Sterols are also highly concentrated in the NOW and exhibit an order of magnitude higher concentration here compared to sites south of the NOW, consistent with the order of magnitude higher primary productivity observed within the NOW relative to surrounding waters in spring/summer months. Finally, our temperature calibrations for alkenones, GDGTs and OH-GDGTs reduce the uncertainty present in global temperature calibrations, but also identify some additional variables that may be important in controlling their local distribution, such as salinity, nutrients, and dissolved oxygen. Collectively, our datasets provide new insight into the utility of these lipid biomarker proxies in high-latitude settings and will help provide a refined perspective on the Holocene development of the NOW with their application in downcore reconstructions.;

publication date

  • July 12, 2021

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • July 19, 2021 11:18 AM

Full Author List

  • Harning DJ; Holman B; Woelders L; Jennings AE; Sepúlveda J

author count

  • 5

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