5 -isomers of stanols and stanones as potential markers of sedimentary organic quality and depositional paleoenvironments

Mathematics – Logic

Scientific paper

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Scientific paper

Organic molecules originating only from the in situ diagenesis of biogenic molecules are ideal geochemical fossils which may provide information essential for the characterization and reconstruction of depositional environments and subsequent chemical reactions during diagenesis. It is proposed herein that this is the case for the 5 -isomers of stanols and stanones produced during stenol hydrogenation in young aquatic sediments, if shown to be essentially free of any major anthropogenic pollution (particularly, sewage). In order to clarify the environmental factors controlling the production of the 5 -steroidal isomers from stenols in recent aquatic sediments, attempts were made to relate the occurrence of 5 -stanols to various environmental parameters. Positive correlations between elevated concentrations of 5 -stanols and the degree of autochthonous contribution to sedimentary organic matter were consistently found in various surface aquatic sediments from a wide variety of depositional environments and also in older sediments extending even to the late Pleistocene. According to this finding, it was concluded that the primary factor controlling the conversion of stenols to 5 -stanols through 5 -stanones in anaerobic aquatic sediments is probably the relative contribution of autochthonous organic matter suitable for microbial metabolism ( i.e. metabolizable organic matter) to the sediments. Consequently, it is proposed that the 5 -isomers of stanols and stanones, at least in immature aquatic (marine and non-marine) sediments, can serve as primary markers for defining the quality of sedimentary organic matter ( viz. the relative contribution of metabolizable organic materials to sedimentary organic matter) and as indicators for the types and rates of microbiological activities responsible for early diagenesis of organic matter in anaerobic sediments. It is also suggested that the combination of the 5 -steroidal isomers with organic source parameters will allow these compounds to assist in indicating oxic or anoxic depositional environments.

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