Leaf wax and Sr‐Nd isotope evidence for high‐latitude dust input to the central South China sea and its implication for fertilization

Yi Yang, James A. Bendle, Richard D. Pancost, Yan Yan, Xiaoyan Ruan, Bridget Warren, Xiaoxia Lü, Xuejie Li, Yongjian Yao, Xianyu Huang, Huan Yang, Shucheng Xie

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Recent time-series from sediment traps show abnormally high chlorophyll-a concentrations and primary productivity in the oligotrophic central South China Sea (SCS), especially during wintertime. Here we present new insights from compound-specific hydrogen isotopic analysis of leaf wax n-alkanes and Sr-Nd isotope compositions extracted from four basin-wide surface sediment transects. We find that the deepest surface sediments in the central basin contain the most depleted n-alkane hydrogen isotopes, suggesting inputs from higher latitude soils in northern China. This is supported by the Sr-Nd isotope compositions of the same surface sediments. We propose that aeolian dust is transported by the winter monsoon and might fertilize the phytoplankton bloom in the central SCS. This process may have been enhanced in ancient times when the winter monsoon was stronger, driving both vertical mixing and dust transport to the central basin.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020GL091853
Number of pages12
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number11
Early online date4 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the Editors Dr. Angelicque White, Dr. Sarah Feakins, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comment to improve the quality of this manuscript. The work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41821001 and 41830319), the State Key R&D Program of China (Grant No.2016YFA0601100), the Senior User Project of RV KEXUE (KEXUE2019GZ06), Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey (Grant No. [2015] GZH01‐02‐6), and Ministry of Education through 111 program (Grant No. BP0820004).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • South China Sea
  • Sr-Nd isotopes
  • aeolian dust
  • carbon and hydrogen isotopes
  • leaf wax
  • n-alkane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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