Dissolved organic phosphorus in the coastal ocean: Reassessment of available methods and seasonal phosphorus profiles from the Eel River Shelf

Monaghan, E. J., K. C. Ruttenberg

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(7), 1999, 1702-1714 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.7.1702

ABSTRACT: Methods for quantifying total dissolved phosphorus (TDP) were reevaluated. High-temperature ashing/hydrolysis (Ash/Hydrol.) and Acid Persulfate methods were examined for their ability to quantitatively convert a range of organic-P compounds to orthophosphate. The Ash/Hydrol. method recovered on average 99% of organic-P compounds tested, including phosphonates (compounds with C-P bonds). Contrary to concerns voiced in prior studies, we found no P loss due to volatilization in seawater samples. Poor recovery by the Acid Persulfate method was observed for two compound classes: phosphonates and phospholipids. The Ash/Hydrol. method is recommended for routine TDP analyses. The hydrolysis of dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) during the phosphomolybdate-blue reaction and the subsequent overestimation of dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) have long been a concern. Extent of hydrolysis of standard DOP compounds was evaluated both during this reaction and over long-term acidified (pH 1.0)/refrigerated and unacidified/frozen storage. Eleven of 12 compounds tested hydrolyzed ,2% during the phosphomolybdate-blue reaction. Phospholipid, phosphosugar, and nucleotide mono- and diphosphate standards stored acidified/refrigerated over 2.5 months were <5% hydrolyzed; compounds with higher energy phosphate bonds (e.g., phosphocreatine) hydrolyzed to a greater extent. A natural seawater sample showed no hydrolysis over 80 d, however, suggesting that refrigerated storage of acidified samples is a viable option. Seasonal DOP profiles from the Eel River Shelf quantified by the Ash/Hydrol. and Acid Persulfate methods yielded comparable results, indicating that the DOP pool at this site did not contain significant phospholipids or phosphonates, which are underrecovered by the Persulfate method. Recoveries using a third method, Nitrate Oxidation, were on average 7% lower. Surface-water DOP exceeded DIP in summer and was apparently related to biological productivity, underscoring the need to include organic species when evaluating nutrient limitation and creating nutrient budgets.

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