2022 journal article

Accumulation of recalcitrant dissolved organic matter in aerobic aquatic systems

Limnology and Oceanography Letters, 8.

By: J. Cotner, N. Anderson & C. Osburnā€‰

Source: ORCID
Added: August 13, 2022

An oxygenated atmosphere changed life on Earth but it also provided a negative feedback to organic matter accumulation by increasing decomposition rates. Nonetheless, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is a huge carbon pool (> 750 Pg) and it can accumulate to high concentrations (20ā€“100 mg C Lāˆ’1) in some freshwater aquatic systems, yet it is not clear why. Here, we examine DOC in several Greenland lakes with varying DOC concentrations and identify processes that could alter its composition to make it increasingly recalcitrant. Ī”14C aging of DOC corresponded with increased DOC concentrations, slower degradation rates, changes in isotope ratios and optical properties, all suggesting that photochemical and microbial degradation processes contributed to recalcitrance. Young DOC degradation was stimulated by phosphorus, but older DOC was not, suggesting an important role for nutrients early in degradation. Photochemical processing coupled with decreased habitat diversity in hydrologically isolated systems may enable recalcitrant DOC to accumulate with important implications for Earth's carbon and oxygen cycles.