, Volume 102, Issue 1–3, pp 209–222 | Cite as

Biological and photochemical transformations of amino acids and lignin phenols in riverine dissolved organic matter

  • Ronald BennerEmail author
  • Karl Kaiser


The photo- and bio-degradation of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in water from the Broad River were investigated in laboratory experiments using a solar simulator to control the intensity and exposure of samples to irradiation. The water samples included a natural assemblage of microorganisms, and the daily exposure of samples to irradiation was varied to distinguish the relative contributions of photochemical and biological degradation. Concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and specific components of DOM, including chromophoric DOM (CDOM), lignin phenols and amino acids, were monitored to investigate the reactivity and predominant pathway of degradation of these DOM components. Biodegradation was primarily responsible for the overall remineralization of DOC and losses of the amino acid component of DOM, whereas photodegradation was primarily responsible for losses of the chromophoric and lignin phenol components of DOM. The rates of photodegradation of lignin phenols were strongly influenced by the presence of methoxy groups on the aryl ring. Syringyl (S) phenols have two methoxy substitutions, vanillyl (V) phenols have one methoxy substitution, and p-hydroxy (P) phenols are not substituted with methoxy groups. Photochemical decay constants were highest for S phenols, lowest for P phenols and followed a consistent pattern (S > V > P) in the experiments. The carbon-normalized yields of amino acids and lignin phenols were found to be useful molecular indicators of the highly reactive (i.e. labile) components of biodegradable and photodegradable DOM, respectively.


Biodegradation Photodegradation DOM Amino acids Lignin phenols 



We thank Brian Benitez-Nelson for technical assistance with the experiments. This research was supported by NSF grant OCE 0850653.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and Marine Science ProgramUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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