Sorptive fractionation of dissolved organic nitrogen and amino acids onto sediments within the Amazon Basin

1024 681 Stroud Water Research Center

Aufdenkampe, A.K., J.I. Hedges, A.V. Krusche, C. Llerena, and J.E. Richey. 2001. Limnology and Oceanography 46(8):1921–1935.

doi: 10.4319/lo.2001.46.8.1921


A consistent observation of river waters in the Amazon Basin and elsewhere is that suspended fine particulate organic matter (FPOM) is compositionally distinct from coexisting dissolved organic matter (DOM). The present article presents experimental results that show that at least some of these compositional patterns are the outcome of selective partitioning of nitrogen-rich DOM components onto mineral surfaces. Nine laboratory experiments were conducted in which natural DOM from two rivers, one wetland, and two leachates from the Peruvian Amazon were mixed with natural suspended riverine minerals or organic-free kaolinite. Concentrations of organic carbon, organic nitrogen, and hydrolyzable amino acids were measured in both dissolved and particulate phases before and after mixing. In each of these trials, nitrogen was preferentially taken into the particulate fraction relative to the “parent” DOM, as were total hydrolyzable amino acids with respect to total organic carbon and nitrogen. Amino acid compositional patterns also indicated preferential sorption of basic amino acids, with positively charged nitrogen side chains, to the negatively charged aluminosilicate clay minerals. In short, sorption of natural DOM to minerals reproduced all contrasting organic nitrogen compositional patterns observed in the Amazon Basin. Although previously conjectured from FPOM-DOM compositional trends from river samples, this is the first direct evidence for preferential uptake of naturally occurring nitrogenous DOM by suspended riverine minerals. Last, nonprotein amino acids, which are commonly used as diagenetic indicators in sediments, preferentially remained dissolved, which suggests that sorptive fractionation may significantly complicate comparisons of FPOM and DOM diagenesis on the basis of interpretation of organic composition.