Lignin biogeochemistry: From modern processes to Quaternary archives

Catherine N. Jex, Gary H. Pate, Alison J. Blyth, Robert G.M. Spencer, Peter J. Hernes, Stuart J. Khan, Andy Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


Lignin has been analysed as a proxy for vegetation change in the Quaternary science literature since the early 1990s in archives such as peat, lakes, and intertidal and marine sediment cores. Historically, it has been regarded as comparatively resistant to various types of degradation in comparison to other plant components. However, studies of modern biogeochemical processes affecting organic carbon have demonstrated significant degradation and alteration of lignin as it is transported through the terrestrial biosphere, including phase changes from particulate to dissolved organic matter, mineral binding and decay due to biotic and abiotic processes. The literature of such topics is vast, however it is not particularly useful to Quaternary research without a comprehensive review to link our understanding of modern processes involving lignin to Quaternary environments. This review will outline the current state of the art in lignin phenol research that is relevant to the Quaternary scientist, and highlight the potential future applications for this important biomarker for vegetation change and terrestrial organic carbon cycling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-59
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Lignin
  • Marine archives
  • Organic geochemistry
  • Paleovegetation
  • Quaternary
  • Terrestrial archives

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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