Early diagenesis of fatty acids and isoprenoid alcohols in estuarine and coastal sediments

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Fatty acids and isoprenoid alcohols were analyzed in river, estuarine, and coastal sediment cores: (1) to investigate the distribution of these lipids among the unbound phase. those bound or closely associated with humic substances, and those bound or closely associated with the huminkerogen and clay mineral matrix. (2) to investigate the diagenetic changes of these lipids with depth in the sediments. and (3) to obtain information on the use of these compounds as organic tracers in marine sediments. Results confirm earlier observations that fatty acids are rapidly altered in marine sediments Both the total and the individual fatty acids decrease in concentration with depth in the sediments: unsaturated acids decrease faster than saturated acids and unbound acids decrease faster than bound acids Approximately 8-62% of the fatty acids were unbound. 2-22% were associated with humic substances. and 38-86% were associated with the residual organic-mineral matrix. Qualitative differences also exist between the fatty acids associated with the unbound, humic, and residual fractions. The ratio of trans/cis geometric isomers of the fatty acids generally increases downcore. with no rearrangement of the double bond positions within the molecules. Either the cis isomer is being preferentially degraded with depth in the sediments, or there is a low temperature, clay catalyzed conversion of the cis isomers to the trans isomers occurring down the cores. Phytol was the major alcohol present in the sediments and does not appear to be altered as rapidly as the fatty acids. Less than 10% of the total phytol (PHY) plus dihydrophytol (DHP) was present as DHP and no trend could be discerned between PHY and DHP with depth or with unbound, humic, and residual material in the cores. All of the isolated DHP appeared to be present as the RRR stereoisomer. Along with the absence of phytane in the cores, this observation suggests that the reduction of phytol to dihydrophytol is microbially mediated in the upper layer of the sediment. © 1979.

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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta