The changes in the structure of XAD-8 isolated dissolved organic matter (DOM) samples along a river (Penobscot River) to estuary (Penobscot Bay) to ocean (across the Gulf of Maine) transect and from the Pacific Ocean were investigated using selective and two dimensional (2D) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy coupled with elemental and carbon isotope analysis. The results provide important insights into the nature of relatively stable structures in the river-to-ocean continuum and the enigma of the fate of terrestrial DOM in the marine system. First, lignin and carboxyl-rich alicyclic molecules (CRAMs), which are indistinguishable from mass spectrometry, were clearly differentiated with NMR spectroscopy. NMR unambiguously showed that CRAMs persisted along the river-to-ocean transect and in the Pacific Ocean, while lignin residues dramatically decreased in abundance from the river to the coastal ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The results challenge a previous conclusion that lignin-derived compounds are refractory and can accumulate in the coastal ocean. The loss of terrestrial plant-derived aromatic compounds such as lignin and tannin residues throughout the sequence of riverine, coastal, and open ocean DOM extracts could also partially explain the decreasing organic carbon recovery by XAD-8 isolation and the change in carbon stable isotope composition from riverine DOM (δ13C −27.6‰) to ocean DOM (δ13C −23.0‰) extracts. The observation, from advanced NMR, of similar CRAM molecules in XAD-8 isolated DOM samples from the Penobscot River to the Penobscot Bay and from the ocean refutes a previous conclusion that XAD-isolated DOM samples from seawater and river are distinctly different. The alicyclic structural features of CRAMs and their presence as the major structural units in DOM extracts from the Penobscot River to Gulf of Maine transect, together with the deduced old 14C age of CRAMs in the ocean, imply that terrestrial CRAMs may persist on timescales long enough to be transported into the ocean.
- Digital Object Identifier: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2017.11.001
- Source: USGS Publications Warehouse (indexId: 70196501)