Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 76, Issue 3, pp 451–463 | Cite as

Processing of humic-rich riverine dissolved organic matter by estuarine bacteria: effects of predegradation and inorganic nutrients

  • E. AsmalaEmail author
  • R. Autio
  • H. Kaartokallio
  • C. A. Stedmon
  • D. N. Thomas
Research Article


The bioavailability of predegraded dissolved organic matter (DOM) from a humic-rich, boreal river to estuarine bacteria from the Baltic Sea was studied in 39-day bioassays. The river waters had been exposed to various degrees of bacterial degradation by storing them between 0 and 465 days in dark prior to the bioassay. The resulting predegraded DOM was inoculated with estuarine bacteria and the subsequent changes in DOM quantity and quality measured. During the incubations, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and oxygen concentrations decreased, indicating heterotrophic activity. Coloured DOM was degraded less than DOC, indicating a selective utilization of DOM, and humic-like fluorescence components increased during the incubations. The amount of DOC degraded was not affected by the length of DOM predegradation. The percentage of bioavailable DOC (%BDOC) was higher in experiment units with added inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus than without addition (on average 13.5 % and 9.0, respectively), but had no effect on the degradation of fresh, non-predegraded, DOC (%BDOC 12.0 %). Bacterial growth efficiency (BGE) was highest (65 ± 2 %) in the units with fresh DOM, and lowest in units with predegraded DOM and no added inorganic nutrients (11 ± 4 %). The addition of inorganic nutrients increased the BGE of predegraded DOM units by an average of 28 ± 4 %. There was no significant effect on BGE by length of predegradation after the initial drop (<3 months). This study suggests that both the length of predegradation and the inorganic nutrient status in the receiving estuary has consequences to carbon cycling and will determine the amount of terrestrial-derived DOC being ultimately assimilated into marine food webs.


DOM Bacterial growth efficiency Predegradation Carbon cycling CDOM Fluorescent DOM 



This study was supported by the Academy of Finland (Finland Distinguished Professor Programme, project No. 127097) and Walter and Andrée de Nottbeck Foundation. The authors would like to thank Chris Hulatt and Anne-Mari Luhtanen for field and laboratory support. Support for sampling was also given by staff from Kiviniemi Association of Finnish Lifeboat Institution.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Asmala
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • R. Autio
    • 1
  • H. Kaartokallio
    • 1
  • C. A. Stedmon
    • 3
  • D. N. Thomas
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Marine Research CentreFinnish Environment Institute (SYKE)HelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  3. 3.National Institute for Aquatic Resources, Section for Oceanography and ClimateTechnical University of DenmarkCharlottenlundDenmark
  4. 4.School of Ocean SciencesBangor UniversityAngleseyUK

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