Preservation of organic matter and alteration of its carbon and nitrogen isotope composition during simulated and in situ early sedimentary diagenesis

Lehmann, M. F. and Bernasconi, S. M. and Barbieri, A. and McKenzie, J. A.. (2002) Preservation of organic matter and alteration of its carbon and nitrogen isotope composition during simulated and in situ early sedimentary diagenesis. Geochimica et cosmochimica acta, 66, Nr. 20. pp. 3573-3584.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/dok/A5249292

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The carbon and nitrogen isotope composition of organic matter has been widely used to trace biogeochemical processes in marine and lacustrine environments. In order to reconstruct past environmental changes from sedimentary organic matter, it is crucial to consider potential alteration of the primary isotopic signal by bacterial degradation in the water column and during early diagenesis in the sediments.In a series of oxic and anoxic incubation experiments, we examined the fate of organic matter and the alteration of its carbon and nitrogen isotopic composition during microbial degradation. The decomposition rates determined with a double-exponential decay model show that the more reactive fraction of organic matter degrades at similar rates under oxic and anoxic conditions. However, under oxic conditions the proportion of organic matter resistent to degradation is much lower than under anoxic conditions. Within three months of incubation the 13C of bulk organic matter decreased by 1.6‰ with respect to the initial value. The depletion can be attributed to the selective preservation of 13C-depleted organic compounds. During anoxic decay, the 15N values continuously decreased to about 3‰ below the initial value. The decrease probably results from bacterial growth adding 15N-depleted biomass to the residual material. In the oxic experiment, 15 values increased by more then 3‰ before decreasing to a value indistinguishable from the initial isotopic composition. The dissimilarity between oxic and anoxic conditions may be attributed to differences in the type, timing and degree of microbial activity and preferential degradation. In agreement with the anoxic incubation experiments, sediments from eutrophic Lake Lugano are, on average, depleted in 13C (-1.5‰) and 15N (-1.2‰) with respect to sinking particulate organic matter collected during a long-term sediment trap study.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Geowissenschaften > Aquatic and Isotope Biogeochemistry (Lehmann)
UniBasel Contributors:Lehmann, Moritz F
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Elsevier Science
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Identification Number:
Last Modified:22 Mar 2012 14:28
Deposited On:22 Mar 2012 14:04

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