Predictive isotopic biogeochemistry: Hydrocarbons from anoxic marine basins

Katherine Haines Freeman, Stuart G. Wakeham, J. M. Hayes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Carbon isotopic compositions were determined for individual hydrocarbons in water column and sediment samples from the Cariaco Trench and Black Sea. In order to identify hydrocarbons derived from phytoplankton, the isotopic compositions expected for biomass of autotrophic organisms living in surface waters of both localities were calculated based on the concentrations of CO2(aq) and the isotopic compositions of dissolved inorganic carbon. These calculated values are compared to measured δ values for particulate organic carbon and for individual hydrocarbon compounds. Specifically, we find that lycopane is probably derived from phytoplankton and that diploptene is derived from the lipids of chemoautotrophs living above the oxic/anoxic boundary. Three acyclic isoprenoids that have been considered markers for methanogens, pentamethyleicosane and two hydrogenated squalenes, have different δ values and apparently do not derive from a common source. Based on the concentration profiles and isotopic compositions, the C31 and C33 n-alkanes and n-alkenes have a similar source, and both may have a planktonic origin. If so, previously assigned terrestrial origins of organic matter in some Black Sea sediments may be erroneous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)629-644
Number of pages16
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
Issue number6-7
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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