Geo-Marine Letters

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 89–99 | Cite as

Sedimentary records of nitrogen isotope in the western tropical Pacific linked to the eastern tropical Pacific denitrification during the last deglacial time

  • Xiaowei Zhu
  • Guodong Jia
  • Weihai XuEmail author
  • Xufeng Zheng
  • Jianguo Liu
  • Yuhang Tian
  • Li Miao
  • Wen YanEmail author


The influence of past variations in water column denitrification (WCD) in the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP) on the western tropical Pacific (WTP) remains ambiguous, due to the deficiency of enough down-core records of nitrogen isotope (δ15N) in the WTP. In this study, sedimentary δ15N record down a core from the northern WTP is investigated to revisit this issue. After elucidating the potential presence of multiple forms of N by analyzing bulk parameters and the potential occurrence of alteration by examining amino acids, the bulk sedimentary δ15N can be accepted as an available indicator of nitrate δ15N. Further, a comprehensive comparison of δ15N records in the North Pacific reveals largely similar variations from the last glacial maximum to early Holocene, suggesting a common feature of WCD signals associated with basin-scale processes, likely as a consequence of basin-wide ocean circulations. Our result suggests that the signals of local N2 fixation in the western Pacific marginal seas would have been constrained by a synchronous glacial-interglacial change of the source WCD signals.


Nitrogen isotope Bulk parameters Amino acids Western tropical Pacific 



We thank the crew of the RV KEXUE for their help during the cruises. Special thanks go to the editors and reviewer for their thoughtful and constructive comments that greatly improved the clarity and quality of the manuscript.

Funding information

This work was funded by The Senior User Project of RV KEXUE (No. KEXUE2018G06), the State Key R&D project (No. 2016YFA0601104), K.C. Wong Education Foundation (No. GJTD-2018-13), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41706059 and 41877295), the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. XDA11030103), Science and Technology Program of Guangzhou, China (No. 201707010219), and Science and Technology Basic Resources Investigation Program of China (No. 2017FY201403).


  1. Algeo TJ, Meyers PA, Robinson RS, Rowe H, Jiang GQ (2014) Icehouse–greenhouse variations in marine denitrification. Biogeosciences 11:1273–1295Google Scholar
  2. Altabet MA, Higginson MJ, Murray DW (2002) The effect of millennial-scale changes in Arabian Sea denitrification on atmospheric CO2. Nature 415:159–162Google Scholar
  3. Arellano-Torres E (2010) Paleoceanography of the eastern tropical North Pacific on millennial timescales. The University of Edinburgh, EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  4. Bolliet T, Holbourn A, Kuhnt W, Laj C, Kissel C, Beaufort L, Kienast M, Andersen N, Garbe-Schoenberg D (2011) Mindanao dome variability over the last 160 kyr: episodic glacial cooling of the West Pacific warm Pool. Paleoceanography 26:PA1208. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Broecker WS, Henderson GM (1998) The sequence of events surrounding termination II and their implications for the cause of glacial-interglacial CO2 changes. Paleoceanography 13:352–364Google Scholar
  6. Casciotti KL (2016) Nitrogen and oxygen isotopic studies of the marine nitrogen cycle. Annu Rev Mar Sci 8:379–407Google Scholar
  7. Costa KM, McManus JF, Anderson RF, Ren H, Sigman DM, Winckler G, Fleisher MQ, Marcantonio F, Ravelo AC (2016) No iron fertilization in the equatorial Pacific Ocean during the last ice age. Nature 529:519–522Google Scholar
  8. Dauwe B, Middelburg JJ (1998) Amino acids and hexosamines as indicators of organic matter degradation state in North Sea sediments. Limnol Oceanogr 43:782–798Google Scholar
  9. Dauwe B, Middelburg JJ, Herman PMJ, Heip CHR (1999) Linking diagenetic alteration of amino acids and bulk organic matter reactivity. Limnol Oceanogr 44:1809–1814Google Scholar
  10. de Garidel-Thoron T, Rosenthal Y, Beaufort L, Bard E, Sonzogni C, Mix AC (2007) A multiproxy assessment of the western equatorial Pacific hydrography during the last 30 kyr. Paleoceanography 22:PA3204. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Deutsch C, Brix H, Ito T, Frenzel H, Thompson L (2011) Climate-forced variability of ocean hypoxia. Science 333:336–339Google Scholar
  12. Devol AH (2015) Denitrification, anammox, and N2 production in marine sediments. Annu Rev Mar Sci 7:403–423Google Scholar
  13. Dong L, Li Z, Jia G (2019) Archaeal ammonia oxidation plays a part in late Quaternary nitrogen cycling in the South China Sea. Earth Planet Sci Lett 509:38–46Google Scholar
  14. Emmer E, Thunell RC (2000) Nitrogen isotope variations in Santa Barbara Basin sediments: implications for denitrification in the eastern tropical North Pacific during the last 50,000 years. Paleoceanography 15:377–387Google Scholar
  15. Fairbanks RG, Mortlock RA, Chiu TC, Cao L, Kaplan A, Guilderson TP, Fairbanks TW, Bloom AL, Grootes PM, Nadeau MJ (2005) Radiocarbon calibration curve spanning 0 to 50,000 years BP based on paired 230Th/234U/238U and 14C dates on pristine corals. Quat Sci Rev 24:1781–1796Google Scholar
  16. Francois R, Altabet MA, Burckle LH (1992) Glacial to interglacial changes in surface nitrate utilization in the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean as recorded by sediment δ15N. Paleoceanography 7:589–606Google Scholar
  17. Francois R, Altabet MA, Yu EF, Sigman DM, Bacon MP, Frank M, Bohrmann G, Bareille G, Labeyrie LD (1997) Contribution of Southern Ocean surface-water stratification to low atmospheric CO2 concentrations during the last glacial period. Nature 389:929–935Google Scholar
  18. Galbraith ED, Kienast M, Albuquerque AL, Altabet MA, Batista F, Bianchi D, Calvert SE, Contreras S, Crosta X, De Pol-Holz R, Dubois N, Etourneau J, Francois R, Hsu T-C, Ivanochko T, Jaccard SL, Kao S-J, Kiefer T, Kienast S, Lehmann MF, Martinez P, McCarthy M, Meckler AN, Mix A, Moebius J, Pedersen TF, Pichevin L, Quan TM, Robinson RS, Ryabenko E, Schmittner A, Schneider R, Schneider-Mor A, Shigemitsu M, Sinclair D, Somes C, Studer AS, Tesdal J-E, Thunell R, Yang J-YT, Members NWG (2013) The acceleration of oceanic denitrification during deglacial warming. Nat Geosci 6:579–584Google Scholar
  19. Ganeshram RS, Pedersen TF, Calvert SE, McNeill GW, Fontugne MR (2000) Glacial-interglacial variability in denitrification in the world's oceans: causes and consequences. Paleoceanography 15:361–376Google Scholar
  20. Ganeshram RS, Pedersen TF, Calvert SE, Murray JW (1995) Large changes in oceanic nutrient inventories from glacial to interglacial periods. Nature 376:755–758Google Scholar
  21. Gaye-Haake B, Lahajnar N, Emeis KC, Unger D, Rixen T, Suthhof A, Ramaswamy V, Schulz H, Paropkari AL, Guptha MVS, Ittekkot V (2005) Stable nitrogen isotopic ratios of sinking particles and sediments from the northern Indian Ocean. Mar Chem 96:243–255Google Scholar
  22. Gruber N, Galloway JN (2008) An earth-system perspective of the global nitrogen cycle. Nature 451:293–296Google Scholar
  23. Hendy IL, Pedersen TF (2005) Is pore water oxygen content decoupled from productivity on the California margin? Trace element results from ocean drilling program hole 1017E, san Lucia slope, California. Paleoceanography 20:PA4026. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hendy IL, Pedersen TF, Kennett JP, Tada R (2004) Intermittent existence of a southern Californian upwelling cell during submillennial climate change of the last 60 kyr. Paleoceanography 19:PA3007. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hu D, Wu L, Cai W, Sen Gupta A, Ganachaud A, Qiu B, Gordon AL, Lin X, Chen Z, Hu S, Wang G, Wang Q, Sprintall J, Qu T, Kashino Y, Wang F, Kessler WS (2015) Pacific western boundary currents and their roles in climate. Nature 522:299–308Google Scholar
  26. Jia G, Li Z (2011) Easterly denitrification signal and nitrogen fixation feedback documented in the western Pacific sediments. Geophys Res Lett 38:L24605. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jiang F, Li A, Li T (2011) Sediment pathway of the East China Sea inferred from an R-mode factor analysis of surface sediments in the Okinawa trough. Quat Int 230:13–20Google Scholar
  28. Kao SJ, Liu KK, Hsu SC, Chang YP, Dai MH (2008) North Pacific-wide spreading of isotopically heavy nitrogen during the last deglaciation: evidence from the western Pacific. Biogeosciences 5:1641–1650Google Scholar
  29. Kienast M (2000) Unchanged nitrogen isotopic composition of organic matter in the South China Sea during the last climatic cycle: global implications. Paleoceanography 15:244–253Google Scholar
  30. Kienast M, Lehmann MF, Timmermann A, Galbraith E, Bolliet T, Holboum A, Normandeau C, Laj C (2008) A mid-Holocene transition in the nitrogen dynamics of the western equatorial Pacific: Evidence of a deepening thermocline? Geophys Res Lett 35:L23610. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Labatut M, Lacan F, Pradoux C, Chmeleff J, Radic A, Murray JW, Poitrasson F, Johansen AM, Thil F (2014) Iron sources and dissolved-particulate interactions in the seawater of the Western equatorial Pacific, iron isotope perspectives. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 28:1044–1065Google Scholar
  32. Lehmann MF, Bernasconi SM, Barbieri A, McKenzie JA (2002) Preservation of organic matter and alteration of its carbon and nitrogen isotope composition during simulated and in situ early sedimentary diagenesis. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 66:3573–3584Google Scholar
  33. Lehmann N, Granger J, Kienast M, Brown KS, Rafter PA, Martinez-Mendez G, Mohtadi M (2018) Isotopic evidence for the evolution of subsurface nitrate in the Western equatorial Pacific. J Geophys Res Oceans 123:1684–1707Google Scholar
  34. Li C, Jian Z, Jia G, Dang H, Wang J (2019) Nitrogen fixation changes regulated by upper water structure in the South China Sea during the last two glacial cycles. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 33:1010–1025Google Scholar
  35. Liu J, Yan W, Xu W, Zhong L (2018) Sediment provenance in the western Pacific warm pool from the last glacial maximum to the early Holocene: implications for ocean circulation and climatic change. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 493:55–63Google Scholar
  36. Luo M, Algeo TJ, Tong HP, Gieskes J, Chen LY, Shi XF, Chen DF (2018a) More reducing bottom-water redox conditions during the last glacial maximum in the southern challenger deep (Mariana trench, western Pacific) driven by enhanced productivity. Deep-Sea Res II Top Stud Oceanogr 155:70–82Google Scholar
  37. Luo M, Algeo TJ, Chen LY, Shi XF, Chen DF (2018b) Role of dust fluxes in stimulating Ethmodiscus rex giant diatom blooms in the northwestern tropical Pacific during the last glacial maximum. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 511:319–331Google Scholar
  38. Mackey DJ, O'Sullivan JE, Watson RJ (2002) Iron in the western Pacific: a riverine or hydrothermal source for iron in the equatorial undercurrent? Deep-Sea Res I Oceanogr Res Pap 49:877–893Google Scholar
  39. Meyers PA (1997) Organic geochemical proxies of paleoceanographic, paleolimnologic, and paleoclimatic processes. Org Geochem 27:213–250Google Scholar
  40. Moore CM (2016) Diagnosing oceanic nutrient deficiency. Phil Trans R Soc A 374:20150290Google Scholar
  41. Möbius J, Gaye B, Lahajnar N, Bahlmann E, Emeis K-C (2011) Influence of diagenesis on sedimentary δ15N in the Arabian Sea over the last 130kyr. Mar Geol 284:127–138Google Scholar
  42. Möbius J, Lahajnar N, Emeis K-C (2010) Diagenetic control of nitrogen isotope ratios in Holocene sapropels and recent sediments from the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Biogeosciences 7:3901–3914Google Scholar
  43. Nakatsuka T, Harada N, Matsumoto E, Handa N, Oba T, Ikehara M, Matsuoka H, Kimoto K (1995) Glacial-interglcial migration of an upwelling field in the western equatoral Pacific recorded by sediment 15N/14N. Geophys Res Lett 22:2525–2528Google Scholar
  44. Pichevin LE, Ganeshram RS, Francavilla S, Arellano-Torres E, Pedersen TF, Beaufort L (2010) Interhemispheric leakage of isotopically heavy nitrate in the eastern tropical Pacific during the last glacial period. Paleoceanography 25:PA1204. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rafter PA, Sigman DM, Charles CD, Kaiser J, Haug GH (2012) Subsurface tropical Pacific nitrogen isotopic composition of nitrate: biogeochemical signals and their transport. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 26:GB1003. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rafter PA, Charles CD (2012) Pleistocene equatorial Pacific dynamics inferred from the zonal asymmetry in sedimentary nitrogen isotopes. Paleoceanography 27:PA3102. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rafter PA, Sigman DM (2016) Spatial distribution and temporal variation of nitrate nitrogen and oxygen isotopes in the upper equatorial Pacific Ocean. Limnol Oceanogr 61:14–31Google Scholar
  48. Ren H, Sigman DM, Chen M-T, Kao S-J (2012) Elevated foraminifera-bound nitrogen isotopic composition during the last ice age in the South China Sea and its global and regional implications. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 26:GB1031. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ren HJ, Sigman DM, Martinez-Garcia A, Anderson RF, Chen MT, Ravelo AC, Straub M, Wong GTF, Haug GH (2017) Impact of glacial/interglacial sea level change on the ocean nitrogen cycle. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 114:E6759–E6766Google Scholar
  50. Reeves JM, Bostock HC, Ayliffe LK, Barrows TT, De Deckker P, Devriendt LS, Dunbar GB, Drysdale RN, Fitzsimmons KE, Gagan MK, Griffiths ML, Haberle SG, Jansen JD, Krause C, Lewis S, McGregor HV, Mooney SD, Moss P, Nanson GC, Purcell A, van der Kaars S (2013) Palaeoenvironmental change in tropical Australasia over the last 30,000 years-a synthesis by the OZ-INTIMATE group. Quat Sci Rev 74:97–114Google Scholar
  51. Reimer PJ, Bard E, Bayliss A, Beck JW, Blackwell PG, Ramsey CB, Buck CE, Cheng H, Edwards RL, Friedrich M, Grootes PM, Guilderson TP, Haflidason H, Hajdas I, Hatte C, Heaton TJ, Hoffmann DL, Hogg AG, Hughen KA, Kaiser KF, Kromer B, Manning SW, Niu M, Reimer RW, Richards DA, Scott EM, Southon JR, Staff RA, Turney CSM, van der Plicht J (2013) IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55:1869–1887Google Scholar
  52. Robinson RS, Kienast M, Albuquerque AL, Altabet M, Contreras S, De Pol Holz R, Dubois N, Francois R, Galbraith E, Hsu T-C, Ivanochko T, Jaccard S, Kao S-J, Kiefer T, Kienast S, Lehmann MF, Martinez P, McCarthy M, Moebius J, Pedersen T, Quan TM, Ryabenko E, Schmittner A, Schneider R, Schneider-Mor A, Shigemitsu M, Sinclair D, Somes C, Studer A, Thunell R, Yang J-Y (2012) A review of nitrogen isotopic alteration in marine sediments. Paleoceanography 27:PA4203. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sagawa T, Yokoyama Y, Ikehara M, Kuwae M (2012) Shoaling of the western equatorial Pacific thermocline during the last glacial maximum inferred from multispecies temperature reconstruction of planktonic foraminifera. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 346:120–129Google Scholar
  54. Shakun JD, Clark PU, He F, Marcott SA, Mix AC, Liu ZY, Otto-Bliesner B, Schmittner A, Bard E (2012) Global warming preceded by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations during the last deglaciation. Nature 484:49–54Google Scholar
  55. Shiozaki T, Furuya K, Kodama T, Kitajima S, Takeda S, Takemura T, Kanda J (2010) New estimation of N2 fixation in the western and Central Pacific Ocean and its marginal seas. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 24:GB1015. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Slemons LO, Murray JW, Resing J, Paul B, Dutrieux P (2010) Western Pacific coastal sources of iron, manganese, and aluminum to the equatorial undercurrent. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 24:GB3024. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Somes CJ, Schmittner A, Altabet MA (2010) Nitrogen isotope simulations show the importance of atmospheric iron deposition for nitrogen fixation across the Pacific Ocean. Geophys Res Lett 37:L23605. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tesdal JE, Galbraith ED, Kienast M (2013) Nitrogen isotopes in bulk marine sediment: linking seafloor observations with subseafloor records. Biogeosciences 10:101–118Google Scholar
  59. Wang TT, Ravelo AC, Ren HJ, Dang HW, Jin HY, Liu JJ, Jian ZM (2018) Nitrogen isotope variations in the northern South China Sea since marine isotopic stage 3: reconstructed from foraminifera-bound and bulk sedimentary nitrogen. Paleoceanogr Paleoclimatol 33:594–605Google Scholar
  60. Wu JW, Liu ZF, Zhou C (2013) Provenance and supply of Fe-enriched terrigenous sediments in the western equatorial Pacific and their relation to precipitation variations during the late Quaternary. Glob Planet Chang 108:56–71Google Scholar
  61. Xiong Z, Li T, Algeo T, Chang F, Yin X, Xu Z (2012a) Rare earth element geochemistry of laminated diatom mats from tropical West Pacific: evidence for more reducing bottomwaters and higher primary productivity during the last glacial maximum. Chem Geol 296:103–118Google Scholar
  62. Xiong Z, Li T, Algeo T, Nan Q, Zhai B, Lu B (2012b) Paleoproductivity and paleoredox conditions during late Pleistocene accumulation of laminated diatom mats in the tropical West Pacific. Chem Geol 334:77–91Google Scholar
  63. Xu Z, Li TG, Clift PD, Lim D, Wan SM, Chen HJ, Tang Z, Jiang FQ, Xiong ZF (2015) Quantitative estimates of Asian dust input to the western Philippine Sea in the mid-late Quaternary and its potential significance for paleoenvironment. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 16:3182–3196Google Scholar
  64. Zheng L-W, Hsiao SS-Y, Ding X-D, Li D, Chang Y-P, Kao S-J (2015) Isotopic composition and speciation of sedimentary nitrogen and carbon in the Okinawa trough over the past 30ka. Paleoceanography 30:1233–1244Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaowei Zhu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Guodong Jia
    • 2
  • Weihai Xu
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Xufeng Zheng
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jianguo Liu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Yuhang Tian
    • 1
    • 3
  • Li Miao
    • 1
    • 3
  • Wen Yan
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ocean and Marginal Sea GeologySouth China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Marine GeologyTongji UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Innovation Academy of South China Sea Ecology and Environmental EngineeringChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of ScienceBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations