As a part of a wider study aimed at determining new molecular biomarkers in soils and sediments that could be specific for distinct vegetation types with respect to unravelling past changes in land use, we analysed the neutral lipid content of soil developed in the catchment of a small lake in central France. The ketone/acetate lipid fraction of soil under pasture or meadow contained a series of pentacyclic triterpenyl acetates with wide structural diversity, most being reported in soil for the first time. The restricted number of potential plant sources of triterpenyl acetates (some produced by a single species) underlines the potential of triterpenyl acetates as new biomarkers to track past vegetation change in palaeoenvironmental studies, when found in natural archives such as soil, sediments or peat. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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