EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Uncovering the contribution of permafrost thaw to the enhanced terrestrial organic matter input into the Bay of Biscay during the last deglaciation

Eduardo Queiroz Alves1, Yunyi Wang1,2, Jens Hefter1, Hendrik Grotheer1, Karin A. F. Zonneveld3, and Gesine Mollenhauer1,2,3
Eduardo Queiroz Alves et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany (
  • 2University of Bremen, 28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 3MARUM-Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, 28359 Bremen, Germany

The thawing of permafrost in the polar regions has important implications for climate on Earth. Indeed, permafrost degradation results in a positive climate feedback which is currently aggravated by human action. The dynamic character of Earth’s climate means that past trends and variability can be examined to improve future projections of this effect. Notably, the permafrost zone that covered parts of Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) is currently absent, indicating that this region is a crucial area for the study of permafrost carbon remobilization during the last deglacial warming. Here, we investigate the mobilization of permafrost material to the Bay of Biscay, off the English Channel. Although this location has been shown to have experienced an enhanced deposition of terrigenous material during the last deglaciation, the contribution of permafrost thaw is unknown. We have established an accurate and robust chronological framework for this deposition, showing enhanced rates of sediment accumulation from approximately 20.2 to 15.8 kcal BP. Biomarker analysis has revealed periods of marked increases in terrigenous input, namely from approximately 20.5 to 19 and from 19 to 16.5 kcal BP. Moreover, by performing compound specific radiocarbon dating on n-alkanoic acids isolated from the sedimentary archive, we have been able to determine the origin of organic matter deposited at the core location. Our results will help researchers to assess to what extent permafrost thaw contributed to the peak of organic matter deposition present in the marine sediment, allowing us to sharpen our understanding of the mechanisms of permafrost carbon mobilization.

How to cite: Queiroz Alves, E., Wang, Y., Hefter, J., Grotheer, H., A. F. Zonneveld, K., and Mollenhauer, G.: Uncovering the contribution of permafrost thaw to the enhanced terrestrial organic matter input into the Bay of Biscay during the last deglaciation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3398,, 2021.


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