Source characterization of sedimentary organic matter using molecular and stable carbon isotopic composition of n-alkanes and fatty acids in sediment core from Lake Dianchi, China

Sci Total Environ. 2014 Mar 1;473-474:410-21. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.10.066. Epub 2013 Dec 31.


The distribution and compound-specific carbon isotope ratios of n-alkanes and fatty acids in a sediment core (63 cm) collected from Lake Dianchi were examined to investigate organic matter sources in the eutrophic lake. Fatty acids included free and bound fatty acids. The carbon isotope compositions of individual n-alkanes and fatty acids from Lake Dianchi sediments were determined using gas chromatography/isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC-IRMS). The δ(13)C values of individual n-alkanes (C16-C31) varied between -24.1‰ and -35.6‰, suggesting a dominance of (13)C-depleted n-alkanes that originated from C3 plants and lacustrine algae. Fatty acids from the sediment extracts were analyzed for their abundances and carbon isotopic compositions. Molecular and isotopic evidence indicates that most of the short-chain fatty acids from Lake Dianchi sediment extracts are sourced from intense microbial recycling and resynthesis of organic matter. Long-chain free fatty acids are mainly derived from terrestrial sources. However, long-chain bound fatty acids are sourced from a combination of terrestrial organic matter, bacteria and algae, with the contribution from algal sources higher in the hypereutrophic stage.

Keywords: Fatty acids; Lake Dianchi; Sediment; Stable carbon isotopes; n-Alkanes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkanes / analysis
  • Carbon Isotopes / analysis
  • China
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Lakes
  • Water Pollutants / analysis


  • Alkanes
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Fatty Acids
  • Water Pollutants