Competition between biological and photochemical processes in the mineralization of dissolved organic carbon

Obernosterer, Ingrid, Ronald Benner

Limnol. Oceanogr., 49(1), 2004, 117-124 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2004.49.1.0117

ABSTRACT: The photo- and bioreactive components of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from three different environments were determined during long-term decomposition experiments. Terrigenous DOM was collected from a black-water system, plankton DOM was harvested from phytoplankton cultures, and lake water served as a DOM source with both terrigenous and plankton components. Photomineralization accounted for the removal of 46 and 7% of terrigenous and lake-dissolved organic carbon (DOC), respectively, while no loss in DOC was observed when plankton DOM was exposed to irradiation. Biomineralization accounted for the removal of 27% each of terrigenous and lake DOC and 74% of plankton DOC. Phototransformations of terrigenous and lake DOM resulted in 7% and 2% increases in biodegradable DOC, respectively, while no increase in biodegradable DOC was observed for irradiated plankton DOM. In two different experimental approaches, terrigenous DOM was exposed to sequential and alternating bio- and photodegradation, respectively, to determine the fractions of DOC that were bioreactive and photoreactive. About 15% of terrigenous DOC was susceptible to both biomineralization and photomineralization. These results demonstrate that biological and photochemical processes compete in the mineralization of DOC. Photomineralization of bioreactive DOC is likely an important factor determining the net effect of irradiation on the bioreactivity of DOM.

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