Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 439–454 | Cite as

Hydrological and Biogeochemical Controls of Seasonality in Dissolved Organic Matter Delivery to a Blackwater Estuary

  • Shatrughan Singh
  • Padmanava DashEmail author
  • M. S. Sankar
  • Saurav Silwal
  • YueHan Lu
  • Peng Shang
  • Robert J. Moorhead


Changes in riverine discharge of dissolved organic matter (DOM) serves as an indicator of linkages between terrestrial ecosystem and receiving aquatic environments. In this study, we test the hypothesis that the seasonal variability of DOM in an estuary fed by a blackwater river is primarily controlled by water discharge and also modified by photochemical and biological processes. We collected surface water samples during 4-week-long field campaigns to the lower Pearl River estuary located in southeastern Louisiana, two during high discharge in spring and two during low discharge in winter and summer, respectively. DOM composition was determined using spectrofluorometric indices and a site-specific parallel factor model, and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations. Spring samples with low salinity showed higher abundance of terrestrial, humic-like DOM and higher DOC concentrations, indicating the export of flood plain-derived DOM during high discharge. In contrast, summer and winter samples with high salinity had greater proportions of labile DOM and higher biological and fluorescence indices, which may reflect enhanced photochemical and biological degradation during summer and better preservation of labile DOM in winter. Spring DOM displayed highly variable source and quality character, relative to winter and summer samples. This observation suggests that river discharge acted as a more rapid and direct control of spatial variation in DOM and photochemical and biological degradation was responsible for removing this flow-related variation between seasons. The incubation experiments showed that natural light can remove terrestrial and microbial humic DOM, while bacterial degradation was responsible for degrading protein-like DOM. Our results provide new evidence that DOM seasonality in blackwater river estuarine environments is collectively regulated by discharge and photochemical and biological degradation.


Parallel factor analysis Excitation-emission matrices Dissolved organic matter Estuarine environments Pearl River Blackwater rivers 



This work was supported by NOAA Unmanned Aerial Systems Program Office through the Northern Gulf Institute, a NOAA Cooperative Institute (grant no. NA11OAR4320199) and the faculty start-up grant to Padmanava Dash. The authors are thankful to Christopher Zarzar, Department of Geosciences, and Gray Turnage, Geosystems Research Institute at the Mississippi State University for their help with water sampling.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

12237_2018_473_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13.6 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 13904 kb)


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© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  3. 3.SUSTech Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary StudiesSouthern University of Science and TechnologyShenzhenChina
  4. 4.Geosystems Research and Northern Gulf InstituteMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA

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