Soluble river organic matter and soil fulvic acids from a variety of environments were compared by examining the free-flow electrophoretic fractionation curves of organic carbon, color, and polysaccharides. Significant amounts of virtually colorless organic material were found in both the soil and the river preparations. Polysaccharides comprised 20-75 percent of the colorless material in the soil fulvic acids but only 3.2-7.0 percent of the colorless material in the river preparations. A significant amount of polysaccharides was complexed with organic materials having negative charges. Amounts of polysaccharides were greater in the Fairbanks soil from Alaska than in the soils from North Carolina or Iowa, and they were greater in the Tahquamenon River in Michigan than in the two rivers in Florida; this suggests that polysaccharide degradation is slower in cooler environments.
For all of the organic preparations which were fractionated, the intensity of the yellow color increased as the charge on the organic anion increased. Highly colored, negatively charged organic material was found to be present in greater amounts in the subsurface spodic soil horizon of the Lakewood and Fairbanks soils than in the surface mollic horizon of the Macksburg soil.
Infrared spectroscopy and elemental analysis of four pooled fractions of the Fairbanks fulvic acid indicated increasing aromatic character with increasing negative charge. An increase in the carboxyl content with negative charge suggests the carboxyl group as the primary source of the negative charge.