, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 251–278

Chemical and optical changes in freshwater dissolved organic matter exposed to solar radiation


  • Christopher L. Osburn
    • Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesLehigh University
  • Donald P. Morris
    • National Research Council-Naval Research Laboratory, Code 6115
  • Kevin A. Thorn
    • National Water Quality LaboratoryU.S. Geological Survey
  • Robert E. Moeller
    • National Research Council-Naval Research Laboratory, Code 6115

DOI: 10.1023/A:1010657428418

Cite this article as:
Osburn, C.L., Morris, D.P., Thorn, K.A. et al. Biogeochemistry (2001) 54: 251. doi:10.1023/A:1010657428418


We studied the chemical and optical changes inthe dissolved organic matter (DOM) from twofreshwater lakes and a Sphagnum bog afterexposure to solar radiation. Stable carbonisotopes and solid-state 13C-NMR spectraof DOM were used together with optical andchemical data to interpret results fromexperimental exposures of DOM to sunlight andfrom seasonal observations of two lakes innortheastern Pennsylvania. Solar photochemicaloxidation of humic-rich bog DOM to smaller LMWcompounds and to DIC was inferred from lossesof UV absorbance, optical indices of molecularweight and changes in DOM chemistry. Experimentally, we observed a 1.2‰ enrichment in δ13$C and a 47% loss in aromaticC functionality in bog DOM samples exposed tosolar UVR. Similar results were observed inthe surface waters of both lakes. In latesummer hypolimnetic water in humic LakeLacawac, we observed 3 to 4.5‰enrichments in δ13C and a 30% increase inaromatic C relative to early spring valuesduring spring mixing. These changes coincidedwith increases in molecular weight and UVabsorbance. Anaerobic conditions of thehypolimnion in Lake Lacawac suggest thatmicrobial metabolism may be turning overallochthonous C introduced during springmixing, as well as autochthonous C. Thismetabolic activity produces HMW DOM during thesummer, which is photochemically labile andisotopically distinct from allochthonous DOM orautochthonous DOM. These results suggest bothphotooxidation of allochthonous DOM in theepilimnion and autotrophic production of DOM bybacteria in the hypolimnion cause seasonaltrends in the UV absorbance of lakes.

carbon stable isotopesDOMhumic acidsNMRphotooxidation

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001