Open Access Publications

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Open access publications by faculty, postdocs, and graduate students in the Department of Earth Sciences.


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Now showing 1 - 5 of 18
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    Physiochemical Controls on the Horizontal Exchange of Blue Carbon Across the Salt Marsh-Tidal Channel Interface
    (Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 2023-06-06) Fettrow, Sean; Jeppi, Virginia; Wozniak, Andrew; Vargas, Rodrigo; Michael, Holly; Seyfferth, Angelia L.
    Tidal channels are biogeochemical hotspots that horizontally exchange carbon (C) with marsh platforms, but the physiochemical drivers controlling these dynamics are poorly understood. We hypothesized that C-bearing iron (Fe) oxides precipitate and immobilize dissolved organic carbon (DOC) during ebb tide as the soils oxygenate, and dissolve into the porewater during flood tide, promoting transport to the channel. The hydraulic gradient physically controls how these solutes are horizontally exchanged across the marsh platform-tidal channel interface; we hypothesized that this gradient alters the concentration and source of C being exchanged. We further hypothesized that trace soil gases (i.e., CO2, CH4, dimethyl sulfide) are pushed out of the channel bank as the groundwater rises. To test these hypotheses, we measured porewater, surface water, and soil trace gases over two 24-hr monitoring campaigns (i.e., summer and spring) in a mesohaline tidal marsh. We found that Fe2+ and DOC were positively related during flood tide but not during ebb tide in spring when soils were more oxidized. This finding shows evidence for the formation and dissolution of C-bearing Fe oxides across a tidal cycle. In addition, the tidal channel contained significantly (p < 0.05) more terrestrial-like DOC when the hydraulic gradient was driving flow toward the channel. In comparison, the channel water was saltier and contained significantly (p < 0.05) more marine-like DOC when the hydraulic gradient reversed direction. Trace gas fluxes increased with rising groundwater levels, particularly dimethyl sulfide. These findings suggest multiple physiochemical mechanisms controlling the horizontal exchange of C at the marsh platform-tidal channel interface. Plain Language Summary Tidal salt marshes store large amounts of carbon belowground in soils, but there is also a significant amount of carbon flowing into and out of these ecosystems via tidal channels. We investigated the carbon flowing between the channel bank and surface water in a salt marsh in Delaware. We found that soil minerals (i.e., iron oxides) control the mobility of carbon as iron oxides retain carbon during ebb tides and release carbon during flood tides as the minerals dissolve. The gradient between the groundwater and surface water elevation (i.e., hydraulic gradient) controls the flow direction for dissolved carbon, altering the concentration and source of carbon found in the tidal channel across tidal cycles. In addition, gases trapped in channel banks are pushed out of the soils as the tide rises. These findings will improve our understanding of carbon cycles in these critical carbon sinks. Key Points - Physiochemical mechanisms control horizontal exchange of carbon across marsh-tidal channel interfaces, affecting lateral carbon flux - Dissolution and reprecipitation of carbon-bearing Fe oxides during flood and ebb tides control the horizontal mobility of carbon - Hydraulic gradients control the carbon character in the tidal channel, and rising tides push greenhouse gases out of the channel bank
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    Predicting Subsurface Architecture From Surface Channel Networks in the Bengal Delta
    (Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 2023-03-19) Xu, Zhongyuan; Khan, Mahfuzur R.; Ahmed, Kazi Matin; Zahid, Anwar; Hariharan, Jayaram; Passalacqua, Paola; Steel, Elisabeth; Chadwick, Austin; Paola, Chris; Goodbred, Steven L. Jr.; Paldor, Anner; Michael, Holly A.
    Groundwater is the primary source of water in the Bengal Delta but contamination threatens this vital resource. In deltaic environments, heterogeneous sedimentary architecture controls groundwater flow; therefore, characterizing subsurface structure is a critical step in predicting groundwater contamination. Here, we show that surface information can improve the characterization of the nature and geometry of subsurface features, thus improving the predictions of groundwater flow. We selected three locations in the Bengal Delta with distinct surface river network characteristics—the lower delta with straighter tidal channels, the mid-delta with meandering and braided channels, and the inactive delta with transitional sinuous channels. We used surface information, including channel widths, depths, and sinuosity, to create models of the subsurface with object-based geostatistical simulations. We collected an extensive set of lithologic data and filled in gaps with newly drilled boreholes. Our results show that densely distributed lithologic data from active lower and mid-delta are consistent with the object-based models generated from surface information. In the inactive delta, metrics from object-based models derived from surface geometries are not consistent with subsurface data. We further simulated groundwater flow and solute transport through the object-based models and compared these with simulated flow through lithologic models based only on variograms. Substantial differences in flow and transport through the different geologic models show that geometric structure derived from surface information strongly influences groundwater flow and solute transport. Land surface features in active deltas are therefore a valuable source of information for improving the evaluation of groundwater vulnerability to contamination. Key Points: - We demonstrate a novel approach that harnesses land surface characteristics to inform groundwater modeling in deltas - The subsurface lithologic data of an active delta is more consistent with surface features than that of an inactive delta - Incorporation of surface information can improve the prediction of contaminant transport in aquifers Plain Language Summary: The structure of groundwater aquifers affects how groundwater and contaminants move through them. In deltas, dynamic river networks are responsible for depositing sediments that ultimately form subsurface aquifers. Therefore, the characteristics of the surface river channel network should provide information about the structure of the subsurface. We tested this idea using a large set of sedimentary data from the Bengal Basin. We created models of the subsurface based on the surface network and showed that the subsurface data reflect the model characteristics in deltas that are actively depositing sediment. Using these subsurface models as input for groundwater flow models, we showed that incorporating this surface information is important for being able to predict how contaminants move in groundwater.
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    The role of iron in the formation of Ediacaran ‘death masks’
    (Geobiology, 2023-02-26) Gibson, Brandt M.; Schiffbauer, James D.; Wallace, Adam F.; Darroch, Simon A. F.
    The Ediacara biota are an enigmatic group of Neoproterozoic soft-bodied fossils that mark the first major radiation of complex eukaryotic and macroscopic life. These fossils are thought to have been preserved via pyritic “death masks” mediated by seafloor microbial mats, though little about the chemical constraints of this preservational pathway is known, in particular surrounding the role of bioavailable iron in death mask formation and preservational fidelity. In this study, we perform decay experiments on both diploblastic and triploblastic animals under a range of simulated sedimentary iron concentrations, in order to characterize the role of iron in the preservation of Ediacaran organisms. After 28 days of decay, we demonstrate the first convincing “death masks” produced under experimental laboratory conditions composed of iron sulfide and probable oxide veneers. Moreover, our results demonstrate that the abundance of iron in experiments is not the sole control on death mask formation, but also tissue histology and the availability of nucleation sites. This illustrates that Ediacaran preservation via microbial death masks need not be a “perfect storm” of paleoenvironmental porewater and sediment chemistry, but instead can occur under a range of conditions.
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    Aqueous Geochemical Controls on the Sestonic Microbial Community in Lakes Michigan and Superior
    (Microorganisms, 2023-02-17) Rani, Asha; Ranjan, Ravi; Bonina, Solidea M. C.; Izadmehr, Mahsa; Giesy, John P.; Li, An; Sturchio, Neil C.; Rockne, Karl J.
    Despite being the largest freshwater lake system in the world, relatively little is known about the sestonic microbial community structure in the Laurentian Great Lakes. The goal of this research was to better understand this ecosystem using high-throughput sequencing of microbial communities as a function of water depth at six locations in the westernmost Great Lakes of Superior and Michigan. The water column was characterized by gradients in temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, and other physicochemical parameters with depth. Mean nitrate concentrations were 32 μmol/L, with only slight variation within and between the lakes, and with depth. Mean available phosphorus was 0.07 μmol/L, resulting in relatively large N:P ratios (97:1) indicative of P limitation. Abundances of the phyla Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Cyanobacteria, Thaumarchaeota, and Verrucomicrobia differed significantly among the Lakes. Candidatus Nitrosopumilus was present in greater abundance in Lake Superior compared to Lake Michigan, suggesting the importance of ammonia-oxidating archaea in water column N cycling in Lake Superior. The Shannon diversity index was negatively correlated with pH, temperature, and salinity, and positively correlated with DO, latitude, and N2 saturation. Results of this study suggest that DO, pH, temperature, and salinity were major drivers shaping the community composition in the Great Lakes.
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    Mixotrophy broadens the ecological niche range of the iron oxidizer Sideroxydans sp. CL21 isolated from an iron-rich peatland
    (FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 2023-02-14) Cooper, Rebecca E.; Finck, Jessica; Chan, Clara; Küsel, Kirsten
    Sideroxydans sp. CL21 is a microaerobic, acid-tolerant Fe(II)-oxidizer, isolated from the Schlöppnerbrunnen fen. Since the genome size of Sideroxydans sp. CL21 is 21% larger than that of the neutrophilic Sideroxydans lithotrophicus ES-1, we hypothesized that strain CL21 contains additional metabolic traits to thrive in the fen. The common genomic content of both strains contains homologs of the putative Fe(II) oxidation genes, mtoAB and cyc2. A large part of the accessory genome in strain CL21 contains genes linked to utilization of alternative electron donors, including NiFe uptake hydrogenases, and genes encoding lactate uptake and utilization proteins, motility and biofilm formation, transposable elements, and pH homeostasis mechanisms. Next, we incubated the strain in different combinations of electron donors and characterized the fen microbial communities. Sideroxydans spp. comprised 3.33% and 3.94% of the total relative abundance in the peatland soil and peatland water, respectively. Incubation results indicate Sideroxydans sp. CL21 uses H2 and thiosulfate, while lactate only enhances growth when combined with Fe, H2, or thiosulfate. Rates of H2 utilization were highest in combination with other substrates. Thus, Sideroxydans sp. CL21 is a mixotroph, growing best by simultaneously using substrate combinations, which helps to thrive in dynamic and complex habitats.
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