A C-rich sediment sample from the Peru Margin was sorted into nine hydrodynamically-determined grain size fractions to explore the effect of grain size distribution and sediment surface area on organic matter content and composition. The neutral monomeric carbohydrate composition, lignin oxidation product yields, total organic carbon, and total nitrogen contents were determined independently for each size fraction, in addition to sediment surface area and abundance of biogenic opal. The percent organic carbon and percent total nitrogen were strongly related to surface area in these sediments. In turn, the distribution of surface area closely followed mass distribution among the textural size classes, suggesting hydrodynamic controls on grain size also control organic carbon content. Nevertheless, organic compositional distinctions were observed between textural size classes. Total neutral carbohydrate yields in the Peru Margin sediments were found to closely parallel trends in total organic carbon, increasing in abundance among grain size fractions in proportion to sediment surface area. Coincident with the increases in absolute abundance, rhamnose and mannose increased as a fraction of the total carbohydrate yield in concert with surface area, indicating these monomers were preferentially represented in carbohydrates associated with surfaces. Lignin oxidation product yields varied with surface area when normalized to organic carbon, suggesting that the terrestrially-derived component may be diluted by sorption of marine derived material. Lignin-based parameters suggest a separate source for terrestrially derived material associated with sand-size material as opposed to that associated with silts and clays. Copyright ?? 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd.