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Published May 2012 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Molecular Paleohydrology: Interpreting the Hydrogen-Isotopic Composition of Lipid Biomarkers from Photosynthesizing Organisms


Hydrogen-isotopic abundances of lipid biomarkers are emerging as important proxies in the study of ancient environments and ecosystems. A decade ago, pioneering studies made use of new analytical methods and demonstrated that the hydrogen-isotopic composition of individual lipids from aquatic and terrestrial organisms can be related to the composition of their growth (i.e., environmental) water. Subsequently, compound-specific deuterium/hydrogen (D/H) ratios of sedimentary biomarkers have been increasingly used as paleohydrological proxies over a range of geological timescales. Isotopic fractionation observed between hydrogen in environmental water and hydrogen in lipids, however, is sensitive to biochemical, physiological, and environmental influences on the composition of hydrogen available for biosynthesis in cells. Here we review the factors and processes that are known to influence the hydrogen-isotopic compositions of lipids—especially n-alkanes—from photosynthesizing organisms, and we provide a framework for interpreting their D/H ratios from ancient sediments and identify future research opportunities.

Additional Information

© 2012 by Annual Reviews. First published online as a Review in Advance on January 13, 2012. This review emerged from the ISOCOMPOUND meeting held in Potsdam, Germany, in June 2009, and a Biogeosphere-Atmosphere Stable Isotope Network (BASIN)-sponsored workshop held in Berkeley in December 2009. The ISOCOMPOUND meeting was sponsored by the European Science Foundation–funded MOLTER (molecular structures as drivers and tracers of terrestrial carbon fluxes) network and the National Science Foundation–funded BASIN network; it gathered organic geochemists, ecologists, biologists, biochemists, and paleoclimatologists to discuss the utility of compound-specific stable isotope measurements in studies of ecology, ecosystem, and Earth sciences. Yannick Garcin (Universität Potsdam) is acknowledged for help with the figures.

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Supplemental Material - EA-40-Sachse_supmat.pdf

Supplemental Material - ea-40-sachse_supmat2.xls


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