Revisiting nutrient utilization in the glacial Antarctic: Evidence from a new method for diatom-bound N isotopic analysis

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Journal Article
Isotopic measurements of diatom-bound nitrogen, using a wet chemical oxidation combined with the "denitrifier" method for nitrate analysis, show significant offsets from previously published combustion-based measurements. This offset is attributed to a gaseous nitrogen blank associated with the diatom s opal frustule. Moreover, experimentation with multiple chemical cleaning protocols demonstrates that diatom microfossils from the clay-rich sediments of the glacial Antarctic are more difficult to clean than Holocene materials. New downcore profiles from the Antarctic show no change in the diatom-bound N 15N/14N between the last glacial and the Holocene in the Atlantic sector, and the elevation of glacial diatom-bound 15N/14N relative to the Holocene in the Indian sector is smaller than in previous measurements. These data suggest no change in the degree of nitrate utilization in the Atlantic sector and at most a 20% increase (from ∼25 to 45%) in the Indian sector. The new measurements suggest that, during the last ice age in the Atlantic sector of the Antarctic, the atmospheric source of biologically available iron was not so great as to become significant relative to the iron supply from below. Given the apparent spatial variability in the degree of nitrate drawdown, more work is required to develop an adequate picture of the glacial Antarctic nutrient field. Copyright 2004 by the American Geophysical Union.