Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 555–567 | Cite as

Lignin degradation products as palaeoenvironmental proxies in the sediments of small lakes

  • Karol Kuliński
  • Joanna Święta-Musznicka
  • Andrzej Staniszewski
  • Janusz Pempkowiak
  • Małgorzata Latałowa
Original Paper


The quantity and quality of lignin phenols (Σ8, Λ, S/V, C/V and (Ad/Al)v) in the sediments of three small Lobelia lakes with neither inlets nor outlets were investigated and compared with palynological data and lithology of the profiles. The method of alkaline CuO oxidation was used. Substantial differences with respect to sedimentary lignin concentration and provenance recorded along the profiles and among the sites are in good agreement with pollen data describing the dominant type of vegetation and with indices of soil erosion in the lakes’ catchments. This relation shows that the compositions of lignin degradation products in these lakes are closely related to the local environmental conditions. In all the lakes gymnosperm wood is the main source of lignin products; however, each lake is characterized by different S/V index values. Especially good correlations were obtained between pine pollen proportions in sediments and the S/V index. The correlation between the C/V and (Ad/Al)v indices indicates a higher degradation of organic matter when non-woody tissue is more abundant. This pilot study illustrates the usefulness and potential for a wider application of lignin oxidation products in palaeoecological reconstructions. This kind of data would be of special importance when investigating local presence/absence of woody plants and the role of angiosperms/gymnosperms in local vegetation. Estimates of lignin biodegradation levels, as well as the data on diagenetic processes, may afford supplementary information on possible disturbances in sedimentation.


Palaeoecology Lake sediments Lignin degradation products Terrigenous organic matter Soil erosion Palynology 



The study was performed as part of the Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences statutory activities grant no. II.2.04/5. The work done in the Laboratory of Palaeoecology and Archaeobotany, University of Gdańsk, was supported by the State Committee for Scientific Research (KBN), Poland, grant no. 3 P04F 087 23. The authors are indebted to the reviewers of the manuscript, Ph. A. Meyers and L. Schwark, for their comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karol Kuliński
    • 1
  • Joanna Święta-Musznicka
    • 2
  • Andrzej Staniszewski
    • 1
  • Janusz Pempkowiak
    • 1
  • Małgorzata Latałowa
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of OceanologyPolish Academy of SciencesSopotPoland
  2. 2.Laboratory of Palaeoecology and Archaeobotany, Department of Plant EcologyUniversity of GdańskGdańskPoland

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