Sedimentary records of carbonaceous particles from fossil fuel combustion

  • Maria Wik
  • Ingemar Renberg
  • Judi Darley
Conference paper
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 37)


Carbonaceous particles produced by fossil fuel combustion can be found in considerable amounts in recent lake sediments. As these particles contain elemental carbon they are resistant to chemical decomposition and therefore both well preserved in sediments and possible to quantify. Sediment samples can be oxidized with H2O2 and digested with HF without the particles being destroyed. The pioneers in studying carbonaceous particles in lake sediments in relation to fossil fuel combustion were J. J. Griffin and E. D. Goldberg. They measured elemental carbon concentrations in Lake Michigan sediments, mainly by infrared assay. On the basis of these analyses, size distribution measurements and also morphological studies of single particles they concluded that the carbonaceous particle record reflected the onset of industrial activity and the increased intensities of fossil fuel combustion during the twentieth century. Similar results have been obtained from another lake in the USA by B. K. Kothari and M. Wahlen. We have counted spherical carbonaceous particles (larger than 5–10 μm), which are characteristic for oil and coal burning, in several lake sediments. In Swedish lakes, the annual accumulation of coarse carbonaceous spheres in varved sediments and the concentration stratigraphy in non-varved sediments, follow the same main pattern as statistical data for the Swedish coal and oil combustion over the last two centuries. Coarse carbonaceous spheres in two sediment profiles from Scottish lakes have aiso been counted. As for the USA and Sweden the sedimentary record was found to reflect the history of fossil fuel combustion.


palaeolimnology sediment carbonaceous particles oil and coal combustion 


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Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers, Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Wik
    • 1
  • Ingemar Renberg
    • 1
  • Judi Darley
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Ecological BotanyUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  2. 2.Palaeoecology Research Unit, Department of GeographyUniversity College LondonLondonEngland

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