Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 365–381 | Cite as

Effects of hydrogen peroxide treatment on measurements of lake sediment grain-size distribution

  • Kristian Vasskog
  • Bjørn Christian Kvisvik
  • Øyvind Paasche
Original paper


Grain-size analysis is routinely performed on soft sediments, and has been applied in numerous paleoenvironmental studies using lake sediment archives. Despite the frequent use of this method, no common protocol exists for the treatment of lake sediment samples prior to analysis. In this study, differences in grain-size distribution before and after treatment with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) were evaluated for sediment sequences from four lakes in Norway characterized by different geological and environmental settings. We found that removal of organic matter had a profound effect on the grain-size distribution of the sediment samples, which might have important bearing on how such data are interpreted. One of the analysed sediment sequences showed a systematic shift toward more fines after treatment, whereas no clear systematic effects were observed for the remaining three. The observed differences might derive from (1) variable concentrations of biogenic silica, which could cause shifts in the Sedigraph readings as a consequence of the porosity and fragility of diatom frustules, (2) clogging of organic matter during initial mechanical sieving, and (3) disturbance of the internal flow regime in the Sedigraph as a result of the dispersive agent having a viscosity that is too low. These possible explanations require further testing. Nevertheless, we propose that the paleolimnological community should develop a common protocol for pre-treatment of sediments from lacustrine settings that both enables reproducibility of results and reduces the risk of misinterpretation. Our observations suggest that sediments from boreal lakes should be treated with hydrogen peroxide prior to grain-size analysis, although treatment should be relatively mild to avoid possible mineral degradation.


Lake sediment Grain-size analysis Sedigraph Pre-treatment Hydrogen peroxide 



The authors thank Jostein Bakke, Eivind Støren, Marius Bakkeng and Svein Olaf Dahl, who helped retrieve the sediment cores used in this study. Coring and analyses of samples from Oldevatnet and Nerfloen were partly funded through the NORLAKE project at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, and the coring of Sverigedalsvatnet was in part funded by the ARCTREC project at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research. We are very grateful for constructive feedback from two anonymous reviewers, an Associate Editor, and Co-Editor-in-Chief Mark Brenner.

Supplementary material

10933_2016_9924_MOESM1_ESM.docx (61 kb)
Number of lake studies published in the journals Sedimentology, The Holocene, Journal of Quaternary Science, Quaternary Research, Quaternary Science Reviews, and Journal of Paleolimnology, where grain-size analysis was part of the methodology. Papers in which pre-treatment with hydrogen peroxide was applied are indicated with red bars and papers where no pre-treatment was used or described are shown in blue. (DOCX 61 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth Science and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate ResearchUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Uni Research Climate, Bjerknes Centre for Climate ResearchBergenNorway
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  4. 4.Bergen Marine Research ClusterBergenNorway
  5. 5.Bjerknes Centre for Climate ResearchUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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