The use of plant hydrocarbon signatures in characterizing soil organic matter
Lorna A. Dawson, Willie Towers, Robert W. Mayes, Julie Craig, R. Katariina Väisänen, E. Clare Waterhouse, 2004. "The use of plant hydrocarbon signatures in characterizing soil organic matter", Forensic Geoscience: Principles, Techniques and Applications, K. Pye, D. J. Croft
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Resistant compounds associated with vegetation have potential for understanding and uniquely describing soil. Although much of the forensic identification of soils has focused on the mineral component, this study illustrates how the origin of the organic component can be a useful tool in soil identification. The epicuticular wax of most plants containts mixtures of hydrocarbons (mainly n-alkanes) and plant species differences are persistent. Evidence from three separate studies is compiled to show the validity of this approach. In the first example, on upland grassland vegetation, the n-alkane pattern of the soil at one site reflected that of the overlying grass, whereas at another site, it reflected that of the previous vegetation, heather. In the second study, n-alkane analysis data indicated the presence of heather in a buried horizon, matching independent evidence from pollen identification. The third study was one covering the whole of Scotland, using an unbiased grid-sampling strategy. Results show that the patterns in the soil n-alkane profiles reflected the overlying vegetation. Where this was not the case, the profiles matched previously grown vegetation. Such biomarker information, derived from plant wax signatures, coupled with soil spatial information, has potential in the unique identification of soils.
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Forensic Geoscience: Principles, Techniques and Applications
Forensic geoscience is an increasingly important sub-discipline within geoscience and forensic science. Although minerals, soils, dusts and rock fragments have been used as only begun to be recognized in the last ten years or so. The police and other investigative bodies are keen to encourage such developments in the fight against crime, particularly since many criminals show a high level of forensic awareness with regard to evidence such as fingerprints, blood and other body fluids. The papers in this volume illustrate some of the main principles, techniques and applications in current forensic geoscience, covering research and casework in the UK and internationally. The techniques described range from macro-scale field geophysical investigations to micro-scale laboratory studies of the chemical and textural properties of individual particles. In addition to forensic applications, many of these techniques have broad utility in geological, geomorphological, soil science and archaeological research.