We studied the chemical and optical changes in the dissolved organic matter (DOM) from two freshwater lakes and a Sphagnum bog after exposure to solar radiation. Stable carbon isotopes and solid-state 13C-NMR spectra of DOM were used together with optical and chemical data to interpret results from experimental exposures of DOM to sunlight and from seasonal observations of two lakes in northeastern Pennsylvania. Solar photochemical oxidation of humic-rich bog DOM to smaller LMW compounds and to DIC was inferred from losses of UV absorbance, optical indices of molecular weight and changes in DOM chemistry. Experimentally, we observed a 1.2??? enrichment in ??13C and a 47% loss in aromatic C functionality in bog DOM samples exposed to solar UVR. Similar results were observed in the surface waters of both lakes. In late summer hypolimnetic water in humic Lake Lacawac, we observed 3 to 4.5??? enrichments in ??13C and a 30% increase in aromatic C relative to early spring values during spring mixing. These changes coincided with increases in molecular weight and UV absorbance. Anaerobic conditions of the hypolimnion in Lake Lacawac suggest that microbial metabolism may be turning over allochthonous C introduced during spring mixing, as well as autochthonous C. This metabolic activity produces HMW DOM during the summer, which is photochemically labile and isotopically distinct from allochthonous DOM or autochthonous DOM. These results suggest both photooxidation of allochthonous DOM in the epilimnion and autotrophic production of DOM by bacteria in the hypolimnion cause seasonal trends in the UV absorbance of lakes.
Additional publication details
Chemical and optical changes in freshwater dissolved organic matter exposed to solar radiation