Marine sediment pore-water profiles of phosphate d18O using a refined micro-extraction

Tobias Goldhammer, Thomas Max, Benjamin Brunner, Florian Einsiedl, Matthias Zabel

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 9:110-120 (2011) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2011.9.110

ABSTRACT: Phosphorus cycling in the ocean is influenced by biological and geochemical processes that are reflected in the oxygen isotope signature of dissolved inorganic phosphate (Pi). Extending the Pi oxygen isotope record from the water column into the seabed is difficult due to low Pi concentrations and small amounts of marine porewaters available for analysis. We obtained porewater profiles of Pi oxygen isotopes using a refined protocol based on the original micro-extraction designed by Colman (2002). This refined and customized method allows the conversion of ultra-low quantities (0.5 - 1 μmol) of porewater Pi to silver phosphate (Ag3PO4) for routine analysis by mass spectrometry. A combination of magnesium hydroxide co-precipitation with ion exchange resin treatment steps is used to remove dissolved organic matter, anions, and cations from the sample before precipitating Ag3PO4. Samples as low as 200 μg were analyzed in a continuous flow isotope ratio mass spectrometer setup. Tests with external and laboratory internal standards validated the preservation of the original phosphate oxygen isotope signature (δ18OP) during micro extraction. Porewater data on δ18OP has been obtained from two sediment cores of the Moroccan margin. The d18OP values are in a range of +19.49 to +27.30‰. We apply a simple isotope mass balance model to disentangle processes contributing to benthic P cycling and find evidence for Pi regeneration outbalancing microbial demand in the upper sediment layers. This highlights the great potential of using δ18OP to study microbial processes in the subseafloor and at the sediment water interface.