Environmental Processes

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 5–21 | Cite as

Fractionation of Dissolved Organic Matter by Co-Precipitation with Iron: Effects of Composition

  • Yingxun Du
  • Cesar E. Ramirez
  • Rudolf Jaffé
Original Article


Interactions between dissolved organic matter (DOM) and different physical-chemical forms of iron (Fe) represent important biogeochemical processes in the organic carbon cycle. Due to the effect of climate change and anthropogenic activities such as land-use change, the loading of terrestrial DOM into aquatic systems is increasing, and thus, enhancing the organic matter-based acidity in aquatic ecosystems. While complexation of Fe with DOM and the sorption of DOM on iron oxides and (oxy)hydroxides have been reported, less is known about how co-precipitation processes might affect by DOM composition. Here the co-precipitation of two DOM standards, namely the Suwannee River Standard Humic Acid Standard II (SRHA) and Nordic Aquatic Fulvic Acid Reference (NAFA), with Fe was investigated in a pH range of 4.0–8.0. The DOM remaining after co-precipitating with Fe was systematically characterized by various analytical methods to reveal the molecular fractionation of DOM. The co-precipitation of SRHA or NAFA with Fe was enhanced by decreasing the pH, where at pH 4.0, about 70~80% DOC of SRHA or NAFA was removed at Fe(III)/C ratios higher than 0.12. The decrease in SUVA254 and the humification index (HIX) during the co-precipitation process suggests that DOM with high aromatic character was preferentially co-precipitated with Fe. DOM molecular weight influenced the selectivity to co-precipitation, with high molecular weight (HMW) DOM showing a stronger affinity. DOM co-precipitation with Fe was clearly dependent on DOM composition, showing an affinity order of terrestrial humic-like> ubiquitous humic-like> microbial humic-like components. The difference in the reactivity and the relative abundances of excitation emission matrix fluorescence combined with parallel factor analysis (EEM-PARAFAC) components explained the difference in DOC removal efficiency between SRHA and NAFA. This study provides direct insights into the effects of DOM composition on its fractionation specifically through co-precipitation with Fe, and suggests that for aquatic systems rich in iron-based (oxy)hydroxides, and for environmental redox interfaces, co-precipitation of DOM with iron might affect optical properties of the aqueous phase, and represent an important sink for terrestrially-derived organic matter.


Co-precipitation DOM Fe Optical properties pH EEM-PARAFAC 



Funding for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation through the FCE-LTER program (DEB-1237517) and through the George Barley endowment (to RJ). Additional support through the National Science Foundation of China (No. 41371122, 41671099; to YD) is acknowledged. The authors thank Drs. C. Ya, C. Romera-Castillo and S. Wagner for assistance with DOM measurements and Dr. P. R. Gardinali for access to the ICP/MS system. This is contribution #850 from the Southeast Environmental Research Center.

Supplementary material

40710_2017_281_MOESM1_ESM.docx (28 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 27 kb)


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nanjing Institute of Limnology and Geography, State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.Southeast Environmental Research Center & Department of Chemistry & BiochemistryFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

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