Plant Ecology

, 182:197 | Cite as

The Occurrence of p-coumaric Acid and Ferulic Acid in Fossil Plant Materials and their Use as UV-proxy

  • Peter BlokkerEmail author
  • Peter Boelen
  • Rob Broekman
  • Jelte Rozema


The applicability of p-coumaric acid and ferulic acid concentrations or ratios in (sub)fossil plant remnant as UV-B proxies relies on various aspects, which are discussed in this paper and will be illustrated with some experimental data. A newly developed THM-micropyrolysis–gas chromatography–mass spectrometry method was tested on various spores, pollen and other plant remains, which were analysed for the presence of the UV-absorbing compounds p-coumaric acid and ferulic acid. This revealed that these supposed building-blocks of sporopollenin appear to be present in pollen of many plant species but also in moss spores. The development of this micropyrolysis method paved the way for the quantitative analysis of UV-absorbing compounds in case only a small amount of analyte is available, for example for fossil pollen and spores but also other small palynomorphs and plant fossils. The use of this technique will provide a better insight in the plant responses to UV-radiation, the chemistry of pollen and spores, their fossil counterparts and furthermore the means for a further development of a proxy for the reconstruction of past UV-B radiation.

Key words

Cuticles Fossil plant materials Leaves Pollen Scales Seeds Spores Sporopollenin Stratospheric ozone 



p-coumaric acid


dehydrogenation polymer


ferulic acid


fatty acid methyl ester


Fourier transform infrared


gas chromatography mass spectrometry


limit of detection


nuclear magnetic resonance




selective ion monitoring


thermally assisted hydrolysis and methylation


total ion current


tetramethyl ammonium hydroxide




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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Blokker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter Boelen
    • 1
  • Rob Broekman
    • 1
  • Jelte Rozema
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Systems Ecology, Faculty of Earth and Life SciencesVrije Universiteit AmsterdamHV AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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