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Identification of dissolved organic matter size components in freshwater and marine environments

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  • Eero Asmala, University of Helsinki
  • ,
  • Philippe Massicotte, Takuvik Joint International Laboratory / UMI 3376, Universite Laval
  • ,
  • Jacob Carstensen

Dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the transition zone from freshwater to marine systems was analyzed with a new approach for parameterizing the size distribution of organic compounds. We used size-exclusion chromatography for molecular size analysis and quantified colored DOM (CDOM) on samples from two coastal environments in the Baltic Sea (Roskilde Fjord, Denmark and Gulf of Gdansk, Poland). We applied a Gaussian decomposition method to identify peaks from the chromatograms, providing information beyond bulk size properties. This approach complements methods where DOM is separated into size classes with pre-defined filtering cutoffs, or methods where chromatograms are used only to infer average molecular weight. With this decomposition method, we extracted between three and five peaks from each chromatogram and clustered these into three size groups. To test the applicability of our method, we linked our decomposed peaks with salinity, a major environmental driver in the freshwater-marine continuum. Our results show that when moving from freshwater to low-salinity coastal waters, the observed steep decrease of apparent molecular weight is mostly due to loss of the high-molecular-weight fraction (HMW; >2 kDa) of CDOM. Furthermore, most of the CDOM absorbance in freshwater originates from HMW DOM, whereas the absorbing moieties are more equally distributed along the smaller size range (< 2 kDa) in marine samples.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Pages (from-to)1381-1393
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

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