Journal of Material Cycles and Waste Management

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 176–184 | Cite as

Analysis of branched-chain fatty acids in humic substances as indices for compost maturity by pyrolysis–gas chromatography/mass spectrometry with tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH-py–GC/MS)

  • Masami FukushimaEmail author
  • Xuefei Tu
  • Apichaya Aneksampant
  • Atsushi Tanaka


Parameters that affect the degree of humification for humic substances (HSs) are deeply related to the maturity of the compost. In general, the matured composts contain HSs with a higher degree of humification. In addition, microbial activities during composting are also one of the indices for compost maturation. Branched-chain fatty acids are metabolites as the result of microbial activities in a soil environment. Such branched-chain fatty acids, regarded as humic precursors, are incorporated into HSs during the composting process. To determine whether branched-chain fatty acids in HSs can be used as biomarkers during composting processes or not, HSs were extracted from three types of composts with the different maturation, and the branched-chain fatty acids in the HSs were analyzed by pyrolysis–gas chromatography/mass spectrometry with tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH-py–GC/MS). HSs with a higher degree of humification (higher aromaticity and lower molecular weight) contained higher levels of branched-chain fatty acids. These results show that branched-chain fatty acids in HSs from matured compost samples can be used as biomarkers, which indicate the history of microbial activities during overall composting process.


Composting Humic substances Humification TMAH-py–GC/MS Branched-chain fatty acids 



This study was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Regional R&D Proposal-Based Program from Northern Advancement Center for Science and Technology of Hokkaido (Project Number: H27H-3-5) and by the Takahashi Industrial and Economic Research Foundation (Project Number: 03-028-241).

Supplementary material

10163_2016_559_MOESM1_ESM.docx (106 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 106 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Masami Fukushima
    • 1
    Email author
  • Xuefei Tu
    • 1
  • Apichaya Aneksampant
    • 1
  • Atsushi Tanaka
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Chemical Resources, Division of Sustainable Resources Engineering, Graduate School of EngineeringHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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