A reliable geochemical paleo-indicator for phosphorus remains elusive, despite the importance of understanding historical changes in the nutrient status of aquatic ecosystems. We assessed the potential of phytate (salts of myo-inositol hexakisphosphate) as a novel phosphorus-specific paleo-indicator by measuring its concentrations in dated sediments from an embayment in Helsinki, Finland, with a known 200-year history of trophic changes. Phytate was extracted in a solution containing sodium hydroxide and EDTA and detected by solution 31P NMR spectroscopy with spectral deconvolution. Concentrations varied markedly with sediment depth and paralleled previously determined changes in diatom assemblages and geochemical indicators linked to trophic status. In contrast, total sediment phosphorus did not reflect phosphorus inputs to the embayment, presumably due to the mobilization of inorganic phosphate under anoxic conditions during periods of high pollutant loading. Importantly, phytate appeared to be stable in these brackish sediments, in contrast to other organic and inorganic phosphates which declined abruptly with depth. We therefore conclude that phytate represents a potentially important indicator of historical changes in phosphorus inputs to water bodies, although additional studies are required to confirm its stability under conditions likely to be encountered in lakes and coastal ecosystems.
- Programområde 5: Natur og klima