EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The dawn of Molecular Genetics in Paleoceanography: tracing Arctic change during the Holocene with marine sedaDNA records from Greenland

Sofia Ribeiro1, Sara Hardardottir1, Jessica Louise Ray2, Stijn De Schepper2, Audrey Limoges3, Connie Lovejoy4, and Marit-Solveig Seidenkrantz5
Sofia Ribeiro et al.
  • 1GEUS, Glaciology and Climate, Copenhagen, Denmark (
  • 2NORCE Research Centre, Bergen, Norway (
  • 3New Brunswick University, Fredericton, Canada (
  • 4Laval University, Quebec City, Canada (
  • 5Aarhus University, Geosciences, Aarhus, Denmark (

As we move towards a “blue” Arctic Ocean in the summer within the next decades, predicting the full range of effects of climate change on the marine arctic environment remains a challenge. This is partly due to the paucity of long-term data on ocean-biosphere-cryosphere interactions over time and partly because, today, much of our knowledge on past ocean variability derives from microfossil and biogeochemical tracers that all have considerable limitations such as preservation biases and low taxonomic resolution or coverage.

Recent studies have revealed sedaDNA as a potential “game-changer” in our ability to reconstruct past ocean conditions, due to the preservation of DNA at low temperatures, and the possibility to capture a much larger fraction of the Arctic marine biome diversity than with classical approaches. However, while sedaDNA has been used in terrestrial, archeological, and lake studies for some years, its application to marine sediment records is still in its infancy.

Here, we will present new results from material recently collected along the two Arctic Ocean outflow shelves off Greenland (Greenland Sea/Fram Strait and Northern Baffin Bay/Nares Strait). We have used a combination of modern and ancient DNA methods applied to seawater, surface sediments, and sediment cores covering the past ca. 12 000 years with the objectives of: 1) characterizing the vertical export of sea ice-associated genetic material through the water column and into the sediments following sea ice melt and 2) exploring the potential of sedaDNA from the circum-polar sea ice dinoflagellate Polarella glacialis as a new sea ice proxy. For the first objective, we followed a comparative metabarcoding approach while the second objective included designing species-specific primers followed by gene copy number quantification by a droplet digital PCR assay. 

We argue that sedaDNA will have a critical role in expanding the Paleoceanography “toolbox” and lead to the establishment of a new cross-disciplinary field.


How to cite: Ribeiro, S., Hardardottir, S., Ray, J. L., De Schepper, S., Limoges, A., Lovejoy, C., and Seidenkrantz, M.-S.: The dawn of Molecular Genetics in Paleoceanography: tracing Arctic change during the Holocene with marine sedaDNA records from Greenland , EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-7131,, 2020