Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Dissolved organic matter quantity and quality from freshwater and saltwater lakes in east-central Alberta


Concentrations of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in surface waters of sub-humid to semi-arid lakes in east-central Alberta increase with increasing salinity and water residence time from about 20 to 330 mg L−1 as dissolved organic carbon (DOC). This pattern is opposite to that observed among freshwater lakes spanning a gradient in water residence times, and is probably caused by evaporative concentration of refractory DOM. The proportion of total DOC, operationally defined as humic substances using XAD-8 resin, was high, though similar to surface waters typically referred to as "humic", and independent of salinity. Very long water residence times (hundreds of years) in saline lakes favors evapoconcentration of low-color, low molecular weight DOM, with N-content characteristic of allochthonous DOM.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Aiken GR & Malcolm RL (1987) Molecular weight of aquatic fulvic acids by vapor pressure osmometry. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 51: 2177–2184

  2. Baron J, McKnight D & Denning AS (1991) Sources of dissolved and particulate organic material in Loch Vale Watershed, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA. Biogeochemistry 15: 89–110

  3. Benner R, Pakulski JD, McCarthy M, Hedges JI & Hatcher PG (1992) Bulk chemical characteristics of dissolved organic matter in the ocean. Science 255: 1561–1564

  4. Campbell CE & Prepas EE (1986) Evaluation of factors related to the unusually low chlorophyll levels in prairie saline lakes. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 43: 846–854

  5. Cole JJ, McDowell WH & Likens GE (1984) Sources and molecular weight of "dissolved" organic carbon in an oligotrophic lake. Oikos 42: 1–9

  6. Curtis PJ (1993) Effect of dissolved organic carbon on 59-Fe scavenging. Limnol. Oceanogr. 38: 1554–1561

  7. Curtis PJ & Prepas EE (1993) Trends of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations from freshwater to saltwater. Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 25: 298–301

  8. DeHann H (1992) Impacts of environmental changes in the biogeochemistry of aquatic humic substances. Hydrobiologia 229: 59–71

  9. DeHann H, Jones RI & Salonen K (1987) Does ionic strength affect the configuration of aquatic humic substances, as indicated by gel filtration? Freshwater Biol. 17: 453–459

  10. Domagalski JL, Orem WH & Eugster HP (1989) Organic geochemistry and brine composition in Great Salt, Mono, and Walker Lakes. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 53: 2857–2872

  11. Engstrom DR (1987) Influence of vegetation and hydrology on the humus budgets of Labrador lakes. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 44: 1306–1314

  12. Ford TE & Naiman RJ (1989) Groundwater-surface water relationships in boreal forest watersheds: dissolved organic carbon and inorganic nutrient dynamics. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 46: 41–49

  13. Gjessing ET (1992) The Humex Project: experimental acidification of a catchment and its humic lake. Environment International 18: 535–543

  14. Hedges JI, Hatcher PG, Ertel JR & Meyers-Schulte KJ (1992) A comparison of dissolved humic substances from seawater with Amazon River counterparts by13C-NMR spectrometry. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 56: 1753–1757

  15. Heldal M, Norland S & Tumyr O (1985) X-ray microanalytic method for measurement of dry matter and elemental content of individual bacteria. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 50: 1251–1257

  16. Hessen, DO (1992) Dissolved organic carbon in a humic lake: effects on bacterial production and respiration. Hydrobiologia 229: 115–123

  17. Hesslein RH, Broecker WS, Quay PD & Schindler DW (1980) Whole-lake radiocarbon experiment in an oligotrophic lake at the Experimental Lakes Area, northwestern Ontario. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 37: 454–463

  18. Hollibaugh JT, Buddemeier RW & Smith SV (1991) Contributions of colloidal and high molecular weight dissolved material to alkalinity and nutrient concentrations in shallow marine and estuarine systems. Marine Chemistry 34: 1–27

  19. Kepkay PE & Johnson BD (1989) Coagulation on bubbles allows microbial respiration of oceanic dissolved organic carbon. Nature 338: 63–65

  20. Kieber RJ, Zhou X & Mopper K (1990) Formation of carbonyl compounds from UV-induced photodegradation of humic substances in natural waters: Fate of riverine carbon in the sea. Limnol. Oceanogr. 35: 1505–1515

  21. Kilham P (1981) Pelagic bacteria: Extreme abundances in African saline lakes. Naturwissenshaften 68: 380–381

  22. Last WJ (1992) Chemical composition of saline and subsaline lakes of the northern Great Plains, western Canada. Salt Lake Res. 1: 47–76

  23. Leenheer JA, Malcolm RL, McKinley PW & Eccles LA (1974) Occurrence of dissolved organic carbon in selected ground-water samples in the United States. J. Res. 2: 361–369

  24. Lewis WM & Saunders III JF (1989) Concentration and transport of dissolved and suspended substances in the Orinoco River. Biogeochem. 7: 203–240

  25. Malcolm RL (1985) In: Aiken, GR McKnight, DM Wershaw, RL & MacCarthy, P (Eds) Humic Substances in Soil, Sediment and Water. J. Wiley, New York

  26. Martin JH & Fitzwater SE (1992) Dissolved organic carbon in the Atlantic, Southern and Pacific oceans. Nature 356: 699–700

  27. McDowell WH (1985) Kinetics and mechanisms of dissolved organic carbon retention in a headwater stream. Biogeochem. 1: 329–352

  28. McDowell WH & Asbury CE (1994) Export of carbon, nitrogen and major ions from three tropical montaine watersheds. Limnol. Oceanogr. 39: 111–125

  29. McKnight DM, Thorn KA, Wershaw RL, Bracewell JM & Robertson GW (1988) Rapid changes in dissolved humic substances in Spirit Lake and South Fork Castle Lake, Washington. Limnol. Oceanogr. 33: 1527–1541

  30. McKnight DM, Aiken GR & Smith RL (1991) Aquatic fulvic acids in microbially based ecosystems: Results from two desert lakes in Antarctica. Limnol. Oceanogr. 36: 998–1006

  31. McKnight DM, Andrews ED, Spaulding SA & Aiken GR (1994) Aquatic fulvic acids in algal-rich antarctic ponds. Limnol. Oceanogr. 39: 1972–1979

  32. Meili M (1992) Sources, concentrations and characteristics of organic matter in softwater lakes and streams of the Swedish forest region. Hydrobiologia 229: 23–41

  33. Meybeck M (1982) Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus transport by world rivers. Am. J. Sci. 282: 401–450

  34. Meyer JL (1986) Dissolved organic carbon dynamics in two subtropical blackwater rivers. Archiv. Hydrobiol. 108: 119–134

  35. Meyer JL & Tate CM (1983) The effects of watershed disturbance on dissolved organic carbon dynamics of a stream. Ecology 64: 33–44

  36. Mitchell P & Prepas EE (1990) Atlas of Alberta Lakes. University of Alberta Press, Edmonton. 675 pp

  37. Rasmussen JB, Godbout L & Schallenberg M (1989) The humic content of lake water and its relationship to watershed and lake morphometry. Limnol. Oceanogr. 34: 1336–1343

  38. Redfield AC, Ketchum BH & Richards FA (1963) In: Hill MN (Ed) The Sea, vol 2. (pp 27–29). J. Wiley & Sons, New York

  39. Solorzano L (1969) Determination of ammonia in natural waters by the phenolhypochlorite method. Limnol. Oceanogr. 14: 799–801

  40. Schiff SL, Arvena R, Trumbore SE, & Dillon PJ (1990) Dissolved organic carbon cycling in forested watersheds: a carbon isotope approach. Water Res. Res. 26: 2949–2957

  41. Schindler DW, Bayley SE, Curtis PJ, Parker BR, Stainton MP & Kelly CA (1992) Natural and man-caused factors affecting the abundance and cycling of dissolved organic substances in precambrian shield lakes. Hydrobiologia 229: 1–21

  42. Stainton MP, Capel MJ & Armstrong FAJ (1977) The Chemical Analysis of Freshwater. 2nd. ed. Fish. Environ. Can. Misc. Spec. Publ. 180 pp

  43. Stumm W & Morgan JJ (1981) Aquatic Chemistry. J. Wiley & Sons, New York

  44. Sugimura Y & Suzuki Y (1988) A high-temperature catalytic oxidation method for the determination of non-volatile dissolved organic carbon in seawater by direct injection of a liquid sample. Marine Chemistry 24: 105–131

  45. Sundh I (1992) Biochemical composition of dissolved organic carbon derived from phytoplankton and used by heterotrophic bacteria. Allo. Environ. Microbiol. 58: 2938–2947

  46. Thurman EM (1985) Organic Geochemistry of Natural Waters. Martinus Nijhoff, Dordrecht

  47. Thurman EM & Malcolm RL (1981) Preparative isolation of aquatic humic substances. Environ. Sci. Technol. 15: 463–466

  48. Thurman EM, Wershaw RL, Malcolm RL & Pinkney DJ (1982) Molecular size of aquatic humic substances. Org. Geochem. 4: 27–35

  49. Tipping E, Hilton J & James B (1988) Dissolved organic matter in Cumbrian lakes and streams. Freshwater Biology 19: 371–378

  50. Tranvik LJ (1989) Bacterioplankton growth, grazing mortality and quantitative relationship to primary production in a humic and a clearwater lake. J. Plankton Res. 11: 985–1000

  51. Trumbrore SE, Schiff SL, Aravena R & Elgood R (1992) Sources and transformation of dissolved organic carbon in the Harp Lake forested catchment: the role of soils. Radiocarbon. 34: 626–635

  52. Tulonen T, Salonen K, & Arvola L (1992) Effects of different molecular weight fractions of dissolved organic matter on the growth of bacteria, algae and protozoa from a highly humic lake. Hydrobiologia 229: 239–252

  53. Urban NR, Gorham E, Underwood JK, Martin FB & Ogden III JG (1990) Geochemical processes controlling concentrations of Al, Fe, and Mn in Nova Scotia lakes. Limnol. Oceanogr. 35: 1516–1534

  54. Vallentine RL & Zepp RG (1993) Formation of carbon monoxide from the photodegradation of terrestrial dissolved organic carbon in natural waters. Environ Sci. Technol. 27: 409–412

  55. Wassenaar L, Hendry J, Aravena R, Fritz P & Barker J (1990) Isotopic composition (13C,14C,2H) and geochemistry of aquatic humic substances from groundwater. Org. Geochem. 15: 383–396

  56. Wetzel RG & Manny BA (1972) Decomposition of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen compounds from leaves in an experimental hard-water stream. Limnol. Oceanogr. 17: 927–931

  57. Williams PM & Druffle ERM (1987) Radiocarbon in dissolved organic matter in the central North Pacific Ocean. Nature 330: 346–348

  58. Williams WD (1964) The limnology of saline lakes in Western Victoria. A review of some recent studies. Hydrobiologia 82: 233–259

  59. Yan L, Stallard RF, Key RM & Crerar DA (1991) Trace metals and dissolved organic carbon in estuaries and offshore waters of New Jersey, USA. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 55: 3647–3656

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Curtis, P.J., Adams, H.E. Dissolved organic matter quantity and quality from freshwater and saltwater lakes in east-central Alberta. Biogeochemistry 30, 59–76 (1995).

Download citation

Key words

  • dissolved organic carbon
  • dissolved organic nitrogen
  • humic substances
  • saline