Aquatic Geochemistry

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 35–52

Diagenesis of vascular plant organic matter components during burial in lake sediments

  • Philip A. Meyers
  • Mary J. Leenheer
  • Richard A. Bourbonniere


Diagenetic changes are difficult to distinguish from variations in sources of organic matter to sediments. Organic geochemical comparisons of samples of wood, bark, and needles from a white spruce (Picea glauca) living today and one buried for 10,000 years in lake sediments have been used to identify the effects of diagenesis on vascular plant matter. Important biogeochemical changes are evident in the aged spruce components, even though the cellular structures of the samples are well preserved. Concentrations of total fatty acids dramatically diminish; unsaturated and shorter chainlength components are preferentially lost from the molecular distributions. Concentrations of total alcohols are similar in the modern and 10,000-year-old wood and bark but markedly lowered in the aged needles. Hydrocarbon concentrations and distributions show little diagenetic change in the 10,000-year-old plant materials. Cellulose components in the wood decrease relative to lignin components, although both types of materials remain in high concentration in comparison to other organic components. Aromatization of abietic acid proceeds more rapidly in buried spruce wood than in bark; retene is the dominant polyaromatic hydrocarbon in the aged wood. In contrast to the variety of changes evident in molecular compositions, neither σ13C values nor C/N ratios differ significantly in the bulk organic matter of modern and aged spruce components.

Key words

Alkanols C/N ratios σ13fatty acids lignin hydrolysates n-alkanes organic matter sterols 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip A. Meyers
    • 1
  • Mary J. Leenheer
    • 2
  • Richard A. Bourbonniere
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Geological Sciences and Center for Great Lakes and Aquatic Sciences, C. C. Little BuildingThe University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.PascoUSA
  3. 3.Environment Canada, National Water Research InstituteCanada Centre for Inland WatersBurlingtonCanada

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