Ecological and biogeochemical changes in an early Paleogene peat-forming environment: Linking biomarkers and palynology

Gordon Inglis, Margaret Collinson, Walter Riegel, Volker Wilde, Brittany Robson, Lenz Olaf, Richard Pancost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sphagnum moss is the dominant plant type in modern boreal and (sub)arctic ombrotrophic bogs and is of particular interest due to its sensitivity to climate and its important role in wetland biogeochemistry. Here we reconstruct the occurrence of Sphagnum moss – and associated biogeochemical change – within a thermally immature, early Paleogene (~ 55 Ma) lignite from Schöningen, NW Germany using a high-resolution, multi-proxy approach. Changes in the abundance of Sphagnum-type spores and the C23/C31n-alkane ratio indicate the expansion of Sphagnum moss within the top of the lignite seam. This Sphagnum moss expansion is associated with the development of waterlogged conditions, analogous to what has been observed within modern ombrotrophic bogs. The similarity between biomarkers and palynology also indicates that the C23/C31n-alkane ratio may be a reliable chemotaxonomic indicator for Sphagnum during the early Paleogene. The δ13C value of bacterial hopanes and mid-chain n-alkanes indicates that a rise in water table is not associated with a substantial increase in aerobic methanotrophy. The absence of very low δ13C values within the top of the seam could reflect either less methanogenesis or less efficient methane oxidation under waterlogged sulphate-rich conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-255
Number of pages11
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Early online date8 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2015

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