Molecular tracers of saturated and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon inputs into Central Park Lake, New York City

Beizhan Yan, Teofilo A. Abrajano*, Richard F. Bopp, Damon A. Chaky, Lucille A. Benedict, Steven N. Chillrud

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Saturated hydrocarbons (SH) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been quantified in a sediment core obtained from Central Park Lake, New York City. Radionuclides 210Pb and 137Cs were used to assign approximate dates to each individual section in the core. The dating profile based on 210Pb matches very well with the time constraints provided by 137Cs. Radionuclide-derived depositional dates are consistent with temporal information from the petroleum-indicator ratio U/R [the ratio of unresolved complex mixture (UCM)to saturated hydrocarbons in the aliphatic fraction] and the history of fuel use in the NYC area. Ratios of 1,7-dimethylphenanthrane (DMP) to 1,7-DMP plus 2,6-DMP [1,7/(1,7 + 2,6)-DMP], retene to retene plus chrysene [Ret/Ret + Chy)], and fluoranthene to fluoranthene plus pyrene [FI/(FI + Py)] provide additional source discrimination throughout the core. Results show that the ratio U/R is sensitive to petroleum inputs and Ret/(Ret + Chy) is responsive to contributions from softwood combustion, whereas both FI/(FI + Py) and 1,7/(1,7 + 2,6)-DMP can be used to discriminate among wood, coal, and petroleum combustion sources. Combined use of these ratios suggests that in New York City, wood combustion dominated 100 years ago, with a shift to coal combustion occurring from the 1900s to the 1950s. Petroleum use began around the 1920s and has dominated since the 1940s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7012-7019
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 15 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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