Skip to main content

Organic Matter

  • Chapter
Limnological Analyses


Organic matter in aquatic ecosystems ranges from dissolved organic compounds to large aggregates of particulate organic matter, and from living to dead material. A majority of this organic matter, whether dissolved or particulate, is detritus, i.e., organic matter from dead organisms. Metabolism of the organic matter and interactions of this material chemically and biologically, are, to a large extent, governed by the size of the organic matter. Little, if any, dissolved organic matter is utilized by aquatic animals directly, whereas particulate organic matter of a given size range may be a major food source. Decomposition of dissolved organic matter results in gaseous end products; particulate organic matter must be converted enzymatically to soluble organic compounds by certain microflora with this capability.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

USD 9.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  • Cole, J.J. 1985. Decomposition. pp. 302–310. In: G.E. Likens, Editor. An Ecosystem Approach to Aquatic Ecology: Mirror Lake and its Environment. Springer-Verlag, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  • Golterman, H.L. and R.S. Clymo (eds). 1969. Methods for Chemical Analysis of Fresh Waters. IBP Handbook No. 8, Blackwell, Oxford. 172 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jordan, M.J., G.E. Likens, and B.J. Peterson. 1985. Organic carbon budget. pp. 292–301. In: G.E. Likens, Editor. An Ecosystem Approach to Aquatic Ecology: Mirror Lake and its Environment. Springer-Verlag, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maciolek, J.A. 1962. Limnological organic analyses by quantitative dichromate oxidation. Res. Rept. U.S. Fish. Wildl. Service 60. 61 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • McDowell, W.H., J.J Cole, and C.T. Driscoll. 1987. Simplified version of the ampoule-persulfate method for determination of dissolved organic carbon. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 44: 214–218.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Menzel, D.W. and R.F. Vaccaro. 1964. The measurement of dissolved organic and particulate carbon in sea water. Limnol. Oceanogr. 9: 138–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rich, P.H. and R.G. Wetzel. 1978. Detritus in the lake ecosystem. Amer. Nat. 112: 57–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stainton, M.P. 1973. A syringe gas-stripping procedure for gas-chromatographic determination

    Google Scholar 

  • of dissolved inorganic and organic carbon in fresh water and carbonates in sediments. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 30: 1441–1445.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stainton, M.P., M.J. Capel, and F.A.J. Armstrong. 1977. The Chemical Analysis of Fresh Water. 2nd Ed. Misc. Special Publ. 25, Fish. Environ. Canada. 180 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Strickland, J.D.H. and T.R. Parsons. 1972. A Practical Handbook of Seawater Analysis. 2nd Edn. Bull. Fish. Res. Bd. Canada 167. 310 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Suzuki, Y., E. Tanoue, and Y. Sigimura. 1990. Distribution of dissolved organic carbon in subtropical and tropical Pacific oceanic waters. Deep-Sea Res. (In press)

    Google Scholar 

  • Wetzel, R.G. 1984. Detrital dissolved and particulate organic carbon functions in aquatic ecosystems. Bull. Mar. Sci. 35: 503–509.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 1991 Springer Science+Business Media New York

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Wetzel, R.G., Likens, G.E. (1991). Organic Matter. In: Limnological Analyses. Springer, New York, NY.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, New York, NY

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-4757-4100-1

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-4757-4098-1

  • eBook Packages: Springer Book Archive

Publish with us

Policies and ethics