Distribution, Source and Fate of Dissolved Organic Matter in Shelf Seas

Nealy Carr1, Claire Mahaffey2, Joanne Hopkins3, Jonathan Sharples4, Richard G Williams2 and Clare Elizabeth Davis5, (1)University Of Liverpool, Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences, Liverpool, United Kingdom, (2)University of Liverpool, Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences, Liverpool, United Kingdom, (3)National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool, United Kingdom, (4)University of Liverpool, Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences, Liverpool, L69, United Kingdom, (5)University of Liverpool, Earth, Oceans and Ecosystem Sciences, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is a complex array of molecules containing carbon (DOC), nitrogen (DON) and phosphorous (DOP), and represents the largest pool of organic matter in the marine environment. DOM in the sea originates from a variety of sources, including allochthonous inputs of terrestrial DOM from land via rivers, and autochthonous inputs through in-situ biotic processes that include phytoplankton exudation, grazing and cell lysis. Marine DOM is a substrate for bacterial growth and can act as a source of nutrients for autotrophs. However, a large component of DOM is biologically refractory. This pool is carbon-rich and nutrient-poor, and can transport and store its compositional elements over large areas and on long time scales. The role of DOM in the shelf seas is currently unclear, despite these regions acting as conduits between the land and open ocean, and also being highly productive ecosystems.

Using samples collected across the Northwest European Shelf Sea, we studied the distribution, source, seasonality and potential fate of DOM using a combination of analytical tools, including analysis of amino acids, DOM absorbance spectra and excitation emission matrices, in conjunction with parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC). Strong cross shelf and seasonal gradients in DOM source and lability were found. We observed a strong seasonally dependent significant correlation between salinity and terrestrial DOM in the bottom mixed layer, an enrichment of DOM at the shelf edge in winter and a three-fold increase in fresh marine DOM coinciding with the timing of a spring bloom. Together, our findings illustrate the dynamic nature of DOM in shelf seas over a seasonal cycle and, highlight the potential for DOM to play a key role in the carbon cycle in these regions.