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Dissolved organic matter transformations in a freshwater rivermouth

March 2, 2023

River-to-lake transitional areas are biogeochemically active ecosystems that can alter the amount and composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM) as it moves through the aquatic continuum. However, few studies have directly measured carbon processing and assessed the carbon budget of freshwater rivermouths. We compiled measurements of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and DOM in several water column (light and dark) and sediment incubation experiments conducted in the mouth of the Fox river (Fox rivermouth) upstream from Green Bay, Lake Michigan. Despite variation in the direction of DOC fluxes from sediments, we found that the Fox rivermouth was a net sink of DOC where water column DOC mineralization outweighed the release of DOC from sediments at the rivermouth scale. Although we found DOM composition also changed during our experiments, alterations in DOM optical properties were largely independent of the direction of sediment DOC fluxes. We found a consistent decrease in humic-like and fulvic-like terrestrial DOM and a consistent increase in the overall microbial composition of rivermouth DOM during our incubations. Moreover, greater ambient total dissolved phosphorus concentrations were positively associated with the consumption of terrestrial humic-like, microbial protein-like, and more recently derived DOM but had no effect on bulk DOC in the water column. Unexplained variation indicates that other environmental controls and water column processes affect the processing of DOM in this rivermouth. Nonetheless, the Fox rivermouth appears capable of substantial DOM transformation with implications for the composition of DOM entering Lake Michigan.

Publication Year 2023
Title Dissolved organic matter transformations in a freshwater rivermouth
DOI 10.1007/s10533-022-01000-z
Authors Nolan J.T. Pearce, James H. Larson, Mary Anne Evans, Sean Bailey, Paul C. Frost, William F. James, Marguerite A. Xenopoulos
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biogeochemistry
Index ID 70250984
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center; Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center