Significance of Perylene for Source Allocation of Terrigenous Organic Matter in Aquatic Sediments. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Perylene is a frequently abundant, and sometimes the only polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) in aquatic sediments, but its origin has been subject of a longstanding debate in geochemical research and pollutant forensics because its historical record differs markedly from typical anthropogenic PAHs. Here we investigate whether perylene serves as a source-specific molecular marker of fungal activity in forest soils. We use a well-characterized sedimentary record (1735-1999) from the anoxic-bottom waters of the Pettaquamscutt River basin, RI to examine mass accumulation rates and isotope records of perylene, and compare them with total organic carbon and the anthropogenic PAH fluoranthene. We support our arguments with radiocarbon (14C) data of higher plant leaf-wax n-alkanoic acids. Isotope-mass balance-calculations of perylene and n-alkanoic acids indicate that ?40% of sedimentary organic matter is of terrestrial origin. Further, both terrestrial markers are pre-aged on millennial time-scales prior to burial in sediments and are insensitive to elevated 14C concentrations following nuclear weapons testing in the mid-20th Century. Instead, changes coincide with enhanced erosional flux during urban sprawl. These findings suggest that perylene is definitely a product of soil-derived fungi, and a powerful chemical tracer to study the spatial and temporal connectivity between terrestrial and aquatic environments.

publication date

  • July 16, 2019