Definitive compositional differences are shown to exist for both fulvic acids and humic acids from soil, stream and marine environments by five different methods (1H and 13C NMR spectroscopy, 14C age and ?? 13C isotopic analyses, amino acid analyses and pyrolysis-mass spectrometry). Definitive differences are also found between fulvic acids and humic acids within each environment. These differences among humic substances from various sources are more readily discerned because the method employed for the isolation of humic substances from all environments excludes most of the non-humic components and results in more purified humic isolates from water and soils. The major compositional aspects of fulvic acids and humic acids which determine the observed characteristic differences in each environment are the amounts and compositions of saccharide, phenolic, methoxyl, aromatic, hydrocarbon, amino acid and nitrogen moieties.