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Seasonal changes in the chemical composition and reactivity of dissolved organic matter at the land-ocean interface of a subtropical river

Abstract

Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is a critical component in aquatic ecosystems, yet its seasonal variability and reactivity remain not well constrained. These were investigated at the land-ocean interface of a subtropical river (Minjiang River, SE China), using absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy. The annual export flux of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from the Minjiang River (5.48 × 1010 g year−1) was highest among the rivers adjacent to the Taiwan Strait, with 72% occurring in spring and summer. The freshwater absorption coefficient a280, DOC-specific UV absorbance SUVA254 and humification index HIX were higher, while the spectral slope S275–295 and biological index BIX were lower in summer than in winter. This suggests intensified export of terrestrial aromatic and high molecular weight constituents in the rainy summer season. Six fluorescent components were identified from 428 samples, including humic-like C1–C3, tryptophan-like C4 and C6, and tyrosine-like C5. The freshwater levels of four components (C1, C2, C4, and C6) were lower while that of C5 was higher in the wet season than in the dry season, suggesting contrasting seasonal variations of different constituents. Laboratory experiments were performed to assess the effects of photochemical and microbial degradation on DOM. Photo-degradation removed chromophoric and fluorescent DOM (CDOM and FDOM) effectively, which was stronger (i) for high molecular weight/humic constituents and (ii) during summer under higher solar radiation. Microbial degradation under laboratory controlled conditions generally showed little effect on DOC, and had smaller impact on CDOM and FDOM in winter than in summer. Overall, this study showed notable seasonal changes in the chemical composition and reactivity of DOM at the land-ocean interface, and demonstrated the significant effects of photo-degradation.

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Acknowledgments

Rui Gong is thanked for her help in sample collection and measurement in the spring investigation. The editor Professor Céline Guéguen and two anonymous reviewers are thanked greatly for their valuable comments that improved the quality of the paper.

Funding

This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41606094).

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Correspondence to Liyang Yang.

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Responsible editor: Céline Guéguen

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Yang, L., Cheng, Q., Zhuang, WE. et al. Seasonal changes in the chemical composition and reactivity of dissolved organic matter at the land-ocean interface of a subtropical river. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 24595–24608 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05700-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05700-2

Keywords

  • Dissolved organic matter
  • River
  • Estuary
  • Photo-degradation
  • Microbial degradation
  • Absorption spectroscopy
  • EEM-PARAFAC