Dissolved organic carbon content is lower in warm seasons and neutral sugar composition indicates its degradation in a large subtropical river (Nantong Section), China

  • Linlin Ye
  • Xiaodong WuEmail author
  • Dezhi Yan
  • Bo Yang
  • Ting Zhang
  • Dandan Huang
Original Article


Riverine organic carbon export plays a major role in the global carbon cycle. The biodegradability of riverine dissolved organic carbon (DOC) determines both greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of refractory DOC. However, seasonal changes in organic carbon and factors controlling DOC biodegradation are still not well understood in large rivers. Here, we examined the monthly changes in concentrations of particulate organic carbon (POC) and DOC in a large subtropical river (Changjiang River, Nantong Section, China) in 2017. We also measured biodegradable DOC (BDOC), specific UV absorbance (SUVA254), neutral sugar concentrations and their compositions. The results showed that POC had no significant relationship with water temperature, precipitation, and discharge. DOC concentrations were significantly negatively correlated with all these parameters, and water temperature explained 61% of the variance in DOC. BDOC concentrations varied between 0 and 14.01 ± 1.22 mg C/L and were closely associated with DOC (R2 = 0.85, p < 0.001). The negative correlation between BDOC% and SUVA254 (R2 = 0.63, p < 0.01) suggested that high aromaticity was associated with low bioavailability. Water temperature was positively correlated with total neutral sugar yield (R2 = 0.43, p < 0.001), which was mainly composed of glucose and deoxysugars in the warm season; thus, neutral sugar composition is a useful indicator of DOC decomposition. Taken together, our study showed that POC has no clear seasonal change, while DOC exhibits a strong seasonal change, and high water temperature leads to low BDOC in a large subtropical river.


Dissolved organic carbon Particulate organic carbon Neutral sugar Bioavailability Tidal cycle 



This work was supported by the State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science (SKLCS-ZZ-2019), National Natural Science Foundation of China (41721091, 41871060, 91547119), Jiangsu Provincial Government Scholarship Program, and the Foundation of Key Laboratory of Nantong City (CP12016005).


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography Science, Nantong Key Laboratory of the Development and Application of Spatial Information TechnologyNantong UniversityNantongChina
  2. 2.Cryosphere Research Station on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Northwest Institute of the Eco-Environment and ResourcesChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Nantong Marine Environmental Monitoring CenterNantongChina

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