Method for the determination of specific molecular markers of biomass burning in lake sediments

T. Kirchgeorg, S. Schüpbach, N. Kehrwald, D. B. McWethy, C. Barbante

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Fire has an influence on regional to global atmospheric chemistry and climate. Molecular markers of biomass burning archived in lake sediments are becoming increasingly important in paleoenvironmental reconstruction and may help determine the interaction between climate and fire activity. Here, we present a high performance anion exchange chromatography-mass spectrometry method to allow separation and analysis of levoglucosan, mannosan and galactosan in lake sediments, with implications for reconstructing past biomass burning events. Determining mannosan and galactosan in Lake Kirkpatrick, New Zealand (45.03°S, 168.57°E) sediment cores and comparing these isomers with the more abundant biomass burning markers levoglucosan and charcoal represents a significant advancement in our ability to analyze past fire activity. Levoglucosan, mannosan and galactosan concentrations correlated significantly with macroscopic charcoal concentration. Levoglucosan/mannosan and levoglucosan/(mannosan. +. galactosan) ratios may help determine not only when fires occurred, but also if changes in the primary burned vegetation occurred.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant agreement No. 267696 – “EARLYhumanIMPACT”. This is EARLYhumanIMPACT contribution #9. The authors would like to thank the two anonymous referees for valuable comments, which helped improve the manuscript. We also thank C. Whitlock for providing samples and scientific discussions and R. Zangrando for fruitful discussions, as well as A. Hofer and B. Pavoni for freeze-drying the samples. Finally, we would like to thank Thermo Fisher Scientific for MSQplus support.

Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Biomass burning
  • Levoglucosan
  • Sediment


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