Influence of vegetation type on n-alkane composition and hydrogen isotope values from a high latitude ombrotrophic bog

Nicholas L. Balascio, William J. D'Andrea, R. Scott Anderson, Stephen Wickler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The composition and hydrogen isotope values of leaf wax components can be powerful tools in reconstructing past climate and environments. However, interpretation of past environmental conditions from such components in sediments is complicated by species-specific influences and there is a need to better understand how vegetation type affects leaf wax composition and isotope ratios in modern environments. In this study we analyzed leaf wax (n-alkane) distributions and hydrogen isotope values of plants from a high latitude ombrotrophic bog in northern Norway. The isotopic analysis of surface water was also conducted on samples from 15 lakes along a ca. 150 km transect to contextualize the bog water isotopic composition and constrain fractionation factors among n-alkane homologues. We identified 14 different plant types growing on the bog surface, including mosses, graminoids and other herbs, sub-shrubs and a tree. n-Alkanes from the leaves of the modern plants had average chain lengths from 25 to 30.5, with a variety of distributions, and with the dominant compound of longer chain lengths (C27, C29, or C31). δD values of n-C25 to n-C33 for the vegetation samples ranged from −197‰ to −116‰ with an average of −162‰. The data also revealed that the δD values for the homologues for half of the vegetation types had ranges that were ≥20‰. Using the average isotopic value of bog water samples, −60‰ we calculated apparent fractionation factors that ranged from −66‰ to −134‰ (avg. −108 ± 22‰), similar to other sites across Europe and to a global data compilation. Our results demonstrate the range of species-specific influences on leaf wax composition and isotopic values at this site and presumably other ombrotrophic bog environments, and provide a dataset to help evaluate the influence of vegetation type on regional sedimentary leaf wax records.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Hydrogen isotope
  • Leaf wax
  • Norway
  • Ombrotrophic bog
  • n-Alkane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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