Group I mesophilic Thaumarchaeota fix dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), accompanied by a biosynthetic fractionation factor of ~20‰. Accordingly, the δ13C signature of their diagnostic biomarker crenarchaeol was suggested as a potential δ13CDIC proxy in marine basins if input from nonmarine Thaumarchaeota is negligible. Semi-enclosed basins are sensitive to carbon-cycle perturbations, because they tend to develop thermohaline stratification. Water column stratification typified the semi-enclosed basins of the Mediterranean Sea during the late Miocene (Messinian) salinity crisis (5.97–5.33 Ma). To assess how the advent of the crisis affected the carbon cycle, we studied sediments of the Piedmont Basin (northwestern Italy), the northernmost Mediterranean subbasin. A potential bias of our δ13CDIC reconstructions from the input of soil Thaumarchaeota is discarded, since high and increasing branched and isoprenoid tetraether (BIT) index values do not correspond to low and decreasing δ13C values for thaumarchaeal lipids, which would be expected in case of high input from soil Thaumarchaeota. Before the onset of the crisis, the permanently stratified distal part of the basin hosted a water mass below the chemocline with a δ13CDIC value of approximately –3.5‰, while the well-mixed proximal part had a δ13CDIC value of approximately –0.8‰. The advent of the crisis was marked by 13C enrichment of the DIC pool, with positive δ13CDIC excursions up to +5‰ in the upper water column. Export of 12C to the seafloor after phytoplankton blooms and limited replenishment of remineralized carbon due to the stabilization of thermohaline stratification primarily caused such 13C enrichment of the DIC pool.

This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.