Article | Published:

Source identification of the Arctic sea ice proxy IP25

Nature Communications volume 5, Article number: 4197 (2014) | Download Citation


Analysis of the organic geochemical biomarker IP25 in marine sediments is an established method for carrying out palaeo sea ice reconstructions for the Arctic. Such reconstructions cover timescales from decades back to the early Pleistocene, and are critical for understanding past climate conditions on Earth and for informing climate prediction models. Key attributes of IP25 include its strict association with Arctic sea ice together with its ubiquity and stability in underlying marine sediments; however, the sources of IP25 have remained undetermined. Here we report the identification of IP25 in three (or four) relatively minor (<5%) sea ice diatoms isolated from mixed assemblages collected from the Canadian Arctic. In contrast, IP25 was absent in the dominant taxa. Chemical and taxonomical investigations suggest that the IP25-containing taxa represent the majority of producers and are distributed pan-Arctic, thus establishing the widespread applicability of the IP25 proxy for palaeo Arctic sea ice reconstruction.

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We thank the University of Plymouth for a Fellowship to T.A.B. We also thank J. Wiktor (Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences) and Michel Poulin (Canadian Museum of Nature) for their taxonomical assistance. We also thank Peter Bond at the University of Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre for assistance with the scanning electron microscope. We are especially grateful to Michel Gosselin (Université du Québec à Rimouski) for providing additional field support under the Arctic-ICE programme, and Alexis Burt (University of Manitoba) for collecting aggregate samples. Sample collection was supported through a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery grant to C.J.M., and by the Polar Continental Shelf Program (PCSP) of Natural Resources Canada. This is a contribution to the research programs of ArcticNet, Arctic Science Partnership (ASP) and the Canada Excellence Research Chair unit at the Centre for Earth Observation Science.

Author information


  1. Biogeochemistry Research Centre, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK

    • T. A. Brown
    •  & S. T. Belt
  2. Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Sciences, Powstańców Warszawy 55, 81-712 Sopot, Poland

    • A. Tatarek
  3. Centre for Earth Observation Science, University of Manitoba, 535 Wallace Building, 125 Dysart Road, Winnipeg, Canada R3T 2N2

    • C. J. Mundy


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T.A.B. designed and implemented the study, performed lipid analyses and data synthesis; A.T. carried out taxonomic assessments of samples; T.A.B. and S.T.B. wrote the manuscript with significant input from C.J.M.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to T. A. Brown.

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Data 1

    IP25 concentrations in Arctic surface sediments. Compiled IP25 concentration data (μg/g and total organic carbon normalised) in Arctic surface sediments from published reports

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