Deglacial export of pre-aged terrigenous carbon to the Bay of Biscay

Queiroz Alves, Eduardo; Wong, Wanyee; Hefter, Jens; Grotheer, Hendrik; Tesi, Tommaso; Gentz, Torben; Zonneveld, Karin; Mollenhauer, Gesine

The last deglaciation is the most recent relatively well-documented period of pronounced and fast climate warming, and, as such, it holds important information for our understanding of the climate system. Notably, while research into terrestrial organic carbon reservoirs has been instrumental in exploring the possible sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide during periods of rapid change, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Here we investigate the mobilization of organic matter to the Bay of Biscay, located in the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of France and Spain. Specifically, we focus on the area that was the mouth of the Channel River during the last deglaciation, where an enhanced terrigenous input has been reported for the last glacial–interglacial transition. We conducted a comprehensive suite of biomarker analyses (e.g. n-alkanes, hopanes and n-alkanoic acids) and isotopic investigations (radiocarbon dating and inline-formulaδ13C measurements) on a high-resolution sedimentary archive. The present study provides the first direct evidence for the fluvial supply of immature and ancient terrestrial organic matter to the core location. Moreover, our results reveal the possibility of permafrost carbon export to the ocean, driven by processes such as deglacial warming and glacial erosion. These findings are consistent with observations from other regions characterized by present or past permafrost conditions on land, which have shown that permafrost thaw and glacial erosion can lead to carbon remobilization, potentially influencing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.



Queiroz Alves, Eduardo / Wong, Wanyee / Hefter, Jens / et al: Deglacial export of pre-aged terrigenous carbon to the Bay of Biscay. 2024. Copernicus Publications.


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