Constraints in the application of the Branched and Isoprenoid Tetraether index as a terrestrial input proxy

Susanne Fietz, Alfredo Martínez-Garcia, Carme Huguet, Gemma Rueda, Antoni Rosell-Melé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Determination of the relative inputs of aquatic autochthonous and terrestrial allochthonous organic matter into marine and lacustrine environments is essential to understanding the global carbon budget. A variety of proxies are used for this purpose, including the Branched and Isoprenoid Tetraether (BIT) index. This is calculated from the concentrations of branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs), derived from unidentified terrestrial bacteria, and crenarchaeol, a marker for aquatic mesophile Thaumarchaeota (Crenarchaeota group I). As the index is a ratio, its value depends on both the crenarchaeol aquatic in situ production and the soil-derived branched GDGT input. Therefore, the BIT index reflects not only changes in the input of terrestrial or soil organic matter but also relative variations in aquatic Thaumarchaeota abundance in the water column. In fact, we show that in oceanic and lacustrine settings, the BIT index can be dominated by the aquatic end-member of the ratio. Consequently, the BIT index by itself can be an unreliable proxy to compare the input of terrestrial matter between sites and over time, and we propose that the quantification of branched GDGT fluxes or concentrations may instead be a better indicator of soil terrestrial inputs. Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberC10032
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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