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

Dirk Sachse, Isabelle Billault, Gabriel J. Bowen, Yoshito Chikaraishi, Todd E. Dawson, Sarah J. Feakins, Clayton R. Magill, Francesca A. McInerney, Marcel T. J. van der Meer, Pratigya Polissar, Richard J. Robins, Julian P. Sachs, Hanns-Ludwig Schmidt, Alex L. Sessions, James W. C. White, Jason B. West, Ansgar Kahmen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

464 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-249
Number of pages29
JournalAnnual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Volume40
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2012

Keywords

  • Paleoclimate
  • Proxy
  • Deuterium
  • Organic geochemistry

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    Sachse, D., Billault, I., Bowen, G. J., Chikaraishi, Y., Dawson, T. E., Feakins, S. J., Magill, C. R., McInerney, F. A., van der Meer, M. T. J., Polissar, P., Robins, R. J., Sachs, J. P., Schmidt, H-L., Sessions, A. L., White, J. W. C., West, J. B., & Kahmen, A. (2012). Molecular Paleohydrology: Interpreting the Hydrogen-Isotopic Composition of Lipid Biomarkers from Photosynthesizing Organisms. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 40, 221-249. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-earth-042711-105535