The Effects of Biodegradation and Photodegradation on DOM Optical Properties: Controlled Laboratory Study Using Plant, Soil and Algal Leachates

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Angela M Hansen, Tamara E C Kraus, Brian A Pellerin and Jacob Fleck, USGS California Water Science Center Sacramento, Sacramento, CA, United States
Many studies use optical properties to infer dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition and origin; however, there are few controlled studies which examine the effects of environmental processing on different DOM sources. Our goal was to better understand the roles DOM plays in wetland environments of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Therefore, five endmember sources of DOM from this region were selected for use in this study: peat soil (euic, thermic Typic Medisaprists); three aquatic macrophytes (white rice (Oryza sativa); tule (Schoenoplectus acutus); cattail (Typha spp.)); and one diatom (Thalassiosira weissflogii). We measured DOM concentrations (mg C/L) and optical properties (absorbance and fluorescence) of these sources following biological and photochemical degradation over a three month period. DOM concentration decreased by over 90% in plant and algal leachates following 3 months of biodegradation, while photoexposure had negligible effects. The fluorescence index (FI), humic index (HI), specific UV absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA), and carbon-normalized fluorescence of Peaks C and A increased with biodegradation, whereas Peak T decreased. Photoexposure resulted in a decrease of the FI, HI and SUVA values. Our results emphasize the need to better understand how environmental processing affects DOM properties in aquatic environments; the frequently opposing effects of biodegradation and photodegradation, which occur simultaneously in nature, make it challenging to decipher the original DOM source without considering multiple parameters. This dataset can help us better identify which optical properties, either individual or in combination, can provide insight into how biogeochemical processes affect DOM in aquatic environments.