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Molecular organic matter in speleothems and its potential as an environmental proxy

Blyth, Alison J.; Baker, Andy; Collins, Matthew J.; Penkman, Kirsty E. H.; Gilmour, Mabs A.; Moss, Jennifer S.; Genty, Dominique and Drysdale, Russell N. (2008). Molecular organic matter in speleothems and its potential as an environmental proxy. Quaternary Science Reviews, 27(9-10) pp. 905–921.

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Organic matter preserved in speleothems has considerable potential to record changes in the surrounding environment, particularly in the overlying vegetation. Here, we review three types of organic matter analysis relevant to speleothems: organic fluorescence, lipid biomarker analysis, and amino acid racemisation. Organic matter luminescence provides a useful non-destructive and rapid method for assessing dissolved organic matter quantity and quality, while biomarker analysis (amino acids and lipids) has the potential to provide a more detailed signal related to specific parts of the surrounding ecosystem such as the dominant vegetation regime and bacterial activity. Amino acid analysis has yet to prove demonstrably useful in stalagmites, due to the inability to characterise the sources of proteinaceous matter. However, the small but increasing body of work on lipid biomarker analysis in stalagmites has shown that a wide variety of recognisable biomarkers are preserved over long periods of time (> 100 ka), can be recovered at temporal resolutions of <10 yr, and show meaningful changes through time. This approach is therefore of considerable potential value to Quaternary science.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2008 Elsevier Ltd.
ISSN: 0277-3791
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Not SetNER/S/A/2003/11297NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)
Not SetNot SetMcDonald Institute Fellowship
Not SetNot SetRoyal Society Prize
Not SetNot SetPhillip Leverhulme Prize
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Item ID: 36829
Depositing User: Mabs Gilmour
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2013 10:23
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 10:14
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