Advances in Earth Science ›› 2021, Vol. 36 ›› Issue (12): 1272-1290. doi: 10.11867/j.issn.1001-8166.2021.095

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Application of Microbial Ether Lipids in the Reconstruction of Paleoenvironments in Peatlands: Progress and Problems

Jiachen FAN 1( ), Shi QIAN 1, Hongye PEI 1, Jie WU 1, Shijin ZHAO 1, Xinyue DANG 1, Huan YANG 2( ), Shucheng XIE 1   

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology,School of Earth Sciences,China University of Geosciences,Wuhan 430078,China
    2.Hubei Key Laboratory of Critical Zone Evolution,School of Geography and Information Engineering,China University of Geosciences,Wuhan 430078,China
  • Received:2021-07-06 Revised:2021-10-03 Online:2021-12-10 Published:2022-01-20
  • Contact: Huan YANG;
  • About author:FAN Jiachen (1997-), male, Handan City, Hebei Province, Master student. Research area include geomicrobiology. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    the National Natural Science Foundation of China "The response of methanogenic biogeochemical cycles to climate change in Dajiuhu peatland from Shennongjia, Hubei since the last deglaciation"(42073072);"Spatiotemporal evolution of hydroclimate and temperature pattern in central and eastern China recorded by geolipids since late Miocene"(41830319)

Jiachen FAN, Shi QIAN, Hongye PEI, Jie WU, Shijin ZHAO, Xinyue DANG, Huan YANG, Shucheng XIE. Application of Microbial Ether Lipids in the Reconstruction of Paleoenvironments in Peatlands: Progress and Problems[J]. Advances in Earth Science, 2021, 36(12): 1272-1290.

Peat is a good archive for paleoenvironment reconstruction and an important terrestrial organic carbon sink. Microbial ether lipids in peatlands are structurally diverse and rich in abundance, and most of these lipids have been thought to be derived from specific biological sources. Their distributions are mainly controlled by temperature, pH and redox conditions, etc. They can be used as proxies for the reconstruction of paleoenvironments, such as temperature, water table and redox conditions and also as tracers of biogeochemical processes, e.g., methane cycling. Microbial ether lipids identified in peatlands can be divided into seven groups: archaeol and OH-archaeol, isoGDGTs and OH-isoGDGTs, brGDGTs, BDGTs and PDGTs, isoGMGTs and brGMGTs, Me-isoGDGTs and Me-isoGMGTs, and GDDs. Here we introduced the structures, biological sources of these ether lipids, and environmental factors influencing their distributions in global peatlands. We showed how microbial ether lipid-based proxies for the reconstruction of the peat paleoenvironment were developed and discussed their advantages and disadvantages. We also discussed the application of microbial ether lipids in indicating methane cycling in peatlands. The abundance of some microbial ether lipids such as GMGTs, isoGDGT isomers and BDGTs can be developed as new proxies for the reconstruction of the paleoenvironment (paleotemperature, paleo-pH, paleohydrology) and methanogenesis in peatlands. At present, some problems may still exist in the application of microbial ether lipids to the reconstruction of peat paleoenvironment and methanogenesis, including the unclear relationships of pH proxies and effective precipitation, the impact of sedimentary facies on the brGDGT-based reconstructions, the uncertainty of brGDGT-based proxies, and the influence of insoluble ether lipids. This highlight further research is needed to resolve these issues. In addition, several aspects need to be paid attention to in future studies, including further determining factors influencing microbial ether lipids in peatlands, understanding the role of methanogenesis in boreal peatlands in regulating the atmospheric CH4 concentration, and introducing some new technologies.

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