Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 71, Issue 2, pp 104–126 | Cite as

Chemical characterization of dissolved organic matter (DOM): A prerequisite for understanding UV-induced changes of DOM absorption properties and bioavailability

Review Article


UV-induced transformations of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM, which is part of dissolved organic matter, DOM) affect CDOM absorption properties resulting in the loss of color (referred to as photobleaching). CDOM photobleaching increases the penetration depths of the damaging UV-B radiation into water bodies and strongly depends on the wavelength of solar radiation and on the pH of aquatic systems. UV-induced transformations also affect DOM availability to bacterioplankton, often enhancing the bioavailability of terrigenous DOM and in turn microbial respiration. The combination of UV-induced enhancement of DOM bioavailability and increased export of terrigeneous DOM into estuaries and coastal waters due to climate-related changes in continental hydrology could result in a UV-mediated positive feedback of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere.

The extent and type of CDOM photobleaching and of UV-induced changes in DOM bioavailability depend on (C)DOM chemical composition, which in turn undergoes drastic changes upon UV-induced transformations. Therefore, the chemical characterization of (C)DOM is key for rationalizing UV-induced transformations. In the second section (after the “Introduction”), we review important methods for the elucidation of the chemical composition of (C)DOM. However, this article is not intended to be comprehensive regarding (C)DOM chemical characterization. An important purpose is to provide photochemical bases for the understanding of UV-induced changes of (C)DOM absorption properties and bioavailability (mainly discussed in the sections “Pathways of DOM phototransformations” and ”UV-induced changes of the absorption properties of CDOM”).


DOM characterization DOM phototransformations CDOM photobleaching DOM bioavailability UV-radiation climate change 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)DübendorfSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollution Dynamics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH)ZurichSwitzerland

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