J. T. Merrill
Center for Atmospheric Chemistry Studies
Graduate School of Oceanography
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881, USA.
Nature (1987) 325: 800-803.
Received: 16 September 1986.
Accepted: 11 December 1986.
Published: 26 February 1987.
Terrestrially produced particulate organic matter can be transported relatively fast in the atmosphere, long distances over the ocean. It has been hypothesized that this atmospheric transport may be an important way of quickly introducing continentally-derived organic material to the surface waters of the open ocean. After rapid transport through the water column to the sediment surface, these terrestrial organic substances could account for an important fraction of the organic carbon found in the sedimentary record. The atmospheric fluxes of these organic substances are large enough to have a major potential impact on the inventory of terrestrially derived lipid material, originating from vascular plant waxes, found in deep-sea sediments. We present here the first use of organic compound biological source marker information in conjunction with long-range meteorological trajectory analysis to elucidate specific terrestrial source regions and to determine the transport pathways of organic material through the atmosphere to remote marine locations.
We thank the Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences sections of the National Science Foundation for support as part of the SEAREX programme. The meteorological calculations were performed with computer facilities at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also supported by NSF. We thank J. B. Alford and N. M. Frew for assistance in the analytical work, and the New Zealand Meteorological Service and the Te Paki Farm Park Ranger for their assistance in the field.