Bacterial roles in the formation of high-molecular-weight dissolved organic matter in estuarine and coastal waters: Evidence from lipids and the compound-specific isotopic ratios

Zou, Li, Xu-Chen Wang, Julie Callahan, Randolph A. Culp, Robert F. Chen, Mark A. Altabet, Ming-Yi Sun

Limnol. Oceanogr., 49(1), 2004, 297-302 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2004.49.1.0297

ABSTRACT: High-molecular-weight dissolved organic matter (HMW-DOM, > 1,000 Daltons) is actively involved in the global biogeochemical cycling of many elements, but its carbon sources and detailed formation pathways are still not well understood. In this study, we measured bulk stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic ratios, lipid composition, and compound-specific carbon isotopic ratios of HMW-DOM samples collected from four U.S. estuaries (Boston Harbor/Massachusetts Bay, Delaware/Chesapeake Bay, San Diego Bay, and San Francisco Bay). Analytical results show (1) a fraction of HMW-DOM (lipid associated) in estuarine and coastal waters is derived from bacteria and phytoplankton; (2) this fraction of HMWDOM is formed by various release processes of bacterial membrane components and bacterial reworking of phytoplanktonderived material; (3) this fraction of HMW-DOM is generally present in all samples from different coastal systems despite variable organic matter inputs and environmental conditions, suggesting an important bacterial role in HMW-DOM formation.

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