The Importance of Atmospheric Input of Terrestrial
Organic Material to Deep Sea Sediments

R. B. Gagosian and E. T. Peltzer
Department of Chemistry
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.

Advances in Organic Geochemistry 1985
Organic Geochemistry (1986) 10: 661-669.

Received: 4 November 1985.
Accepted: 18 March 1986.


The concentrations of lipids were determined in atmospheric particle, gas and rain samples collected from the tropical North Pacific to assess lipid sources, transport mechanisms and fluxes to the ocean surface. Four lipid compound classes (aliphatic hydrocarbons, fatty alcohols, fatty acid esters, and fatty acid salts) all unequivocally show a terrestrial vascular plant source. These aerosol lipids originate from wind erosion of Asian and American soils and direct emission from vegetation.

The major fluxes result from rain rather than dry deposition. These fluxes are large enough to have a major potential impact on the inventory of terrestrially derived lipid material found in deep-sea sediments. This has been shown for n-alkanes, fatty alcohols, fatty acids, total lipids and for organic carbon. By comparing atmospheric and sediment trap fluxes with sediment accumulation rates, it is suggested that some biogenic terrestrial material is more protected from degradation than marine-derived material.


This work was supported by National Science Foundation grants OCE 84-15724 and OCE 84-06666. We thank Drs. John Farrington, Stuart Wakeham, John Ertel, Kimitaka Kawamura and John Volkman for critical comments. Special thanks to Dr. Elliot Atlas who has made important contributions to our thinking about the SEAREX data.

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