Calibrating n-alkane Sphagnum proxies in sub-Arctic Scandinavia

Jorien E. Vonk*, Örjan Gustafsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Moss covered, high latitude wetlands hold large amounts of terrestrial organic matter (OM), which may be vulnerable to expected climate warming. Molecular analysis of fluvially transported material from these regions can distinguish between different sources of terrestrial OM. Sphagnum moss may represent one of the major sources. This study aimed to quantitatively establish a molecular proxy for identifying Sphagnum-derived OM from high latitude peatlands in the sub-Arctic coastal ocean. We collected and analyzed Sphagnum species throughout northern Sweden and Finland. Results show that the C 25/(C 25 + C 29) n-alkane ratio is most suitable for terrestrial OM source apportionment in these coastal regions since, compared to other n-alkane Sphagnum proxies, it shows (i) the least variation between species, (ii) the most constant values for different latitudinal regimes and (iii) the largest dynamic range to the higher plant end member in two-source mixing models. Application of the proxy to surface sediments and suspended particulate matter in the sub-Arctic northern Baltic Sea shows that 68-103% of the terrestrial OM fraction is derived from Sphagnum-rich peatland. We recommend that future studies on terrestrial OM fluxes into (sub-)Arctic regions should apply the C 25/(C 25 + C 29) proxy to improve insight into the contribution of Sphagnum-derived terrestrial OM from climate-vulnerable, high latitude wetlands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1085-1090
Number of pages6
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


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