, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 263–284 | Cite as

Photodegradation of DOC in a shallow prairie wetland: evidence from seasonal changes in DOC optical properties and chemical characteristics



Wetlands across the Canadian prairies are typically shallow (<1.0 m) and exhibit high dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations (>10 mg l−1). Studies have shown that DOC in such shallow wetlands is not as reliable an indicator of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) attenuation as it is in clearwater. Changes in DOC character and composition as a result of sunlight exposure might provide a reasonable explanation for this observation. To test this, we investigated seasonal changes in DOC optical and chemical properties in a shallow prairie wetland over a 2-year period. Although DOC concentration increased at least two-fold from spring until fall, DOC specific absorption (at 350 nm) and fluorescence decreased by 30 and 32%, respectively, for the same period. In both years, seasonal decreases in DOC molecular weight and size (from measurements of tangential filtration and mass electrospray mass spectrometry) were reflected in concomitant increases in spectral slope. 13C NMR analysis of DOC isolated on XAD-8 resins revealed a 49% decrease in aromatic moieties when spring values were compared to those in the fall. As well, δ13C signatures of this isolated DOC became heavier seasonally. In a short term photodegradation experiment (6 days) we noted a 47% decline in DOC specific absorption coefficients at 350 nm and a 15% increase in spectral slope when water exposed to the total light spectrum was compared to that of a dark control. Taken together, all of these observations were consistent with the occurrence of seasonal DOC photodegradation in shallow prairie wetlands and underlined the importance of this process in shaping DOC character and composition in these hydrologically dynamic systems. Our data also indicates that constant mixing and shallow depths in these wetlands were factors which enhanced DOC photodegradation. Although the high DOC concentrations of prairie wetlands should theoretically offer protection for their biota, seasonal photodegradation of DOC means that these systems may not be as protected as their high DOC concentrations suggest.

13C NMR DOC DOC molecular weight and size Photodegradation Prairie wetlands Spectral slope Water optical properties 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Water Research InstituteSaskatoonCanada

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