, Volume 124, Issue 1–3, pp 219–233 | Cite as

After the flood: changing dissolved organic carbon bioavailability and bacterial growth following inflows to estuaries

  • James N. HitchcockEmail author
  • Simon M. Mitrovic


Freshwater inflows play an important role in delivering dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to estuaries. Although considerable DOC can be delivered to estuaries during episodic inflow events, such as floods, little information exists on how the bioavailability of DOC may change during these periods. In this study we used in vitro bioassay incubation experiments to examine how bioavailability changed following inflow events in two temperate south east Australian estuaries; the agricultural Bega River and the forested Clyde River. We measured short-term (2 days) and long-term (28 days) bioavailable DOC (BDOC) and determined percentage bioavailability, bacterial doubling times (BTd), all with and without excess nitrogen and phosphorus to control for nutrient limitation. Our results showed BDOC varied between 0.13 and 3.62 mg C L−1, equivalent to 2.5–31 % of initial concentrations. BTd were significantly shorter at the peak of flow and reduced as discharge returned to base flow conditions. Multiple-regression analysis showed discharge and specific ultraviolet light absorbance were the best factors for explaining variance in BDOC whilst discharge was the best factor for explaining BTd. The addition of nutrients led to significantly higher measurements of BDOC and bacteria doubling times on the Clyde River when initial phosphorus concentrations were low. These results highlight the importance of freshwater inflow events as intense moments of biogeochemical transformation in estuaries.


Bacteria Bioavailability Carbon Estuary River Flood 



This work was supported by the Peter Cullen Postgraduate Scholarship funded by the NSW Office of Water, Sydney Catchment Authority, State Water, Hunter Water and Sydney Water. Dr John Brayan and the staff of the NSW Office of Water laboratory are thanked for their assistance in sample analysis, and Ann-Marie Rohlfs for field and laboratory assistance. Thank you to Darren Baldwin, Joel Hoffman and other anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Environmental Sustainability, School of the EnvironmentUniversity of Technology, SydneyBroadwayAustralia
  2. 2.New South Wales Office of WaterElizabeth Macarthur Agricultural InstituteNarellanAustralia

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