Spencer, R.G.M., A. Stubbins, P.J. Hernes, A. Baker, K. Mopper, A.K. Aufdenkampe, R.Y. Dyda, V.L. Mwamba, A.M. Mazedi, et al. 2009. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences 114:G03010.
Photochemical degradation of Congo River dissolved organic matter (DOM) was investigated to examine the fate of terrigenous DOM derived from tropical ecosystems. Tropical riverine DOM receives greater exposure to solar radiation, particularly in large river plumes discharging directly into the open ocean. Initial Congo River DOM exhibited dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration and compositional characteristics typical of organic rich blackwater systems. During a 57 day irradiation experiment, Congo River DOM was shown to be highly photoreactive with a decrease in DOC, chromophoric DOM (CDOM), lignin phenol concentrations (Σ8) and carbon-normalized yields (Λ8), equivalent to losses of ∼45, 85–95, >95 and >95% of initial values, respectively, and a +3.1 ‰ enrichment of the δ13C-DOC signature. The loss of Λ8 and enrichment of δ13C-DOC during irradiation was strongly correlated (r = 0.99, p < 0.01) indicating tight coupling between these biomarkers. Furthermore, the loss of CDOM absorbance was correlated to the loss of Λ8 (e.g., a355 versus Λ8; r = 0.98, p < 0.01) and δ13C-DOC (e.g., a355 versus δ13C; r = 0.97, p < 0.01), highlighting the potential of CDOM absorbance measurements for delineating the photochemical degradation of lignin and thus terrigenous DOM. It is apparent that these commonly used measurements for examination of terrigenous DOM in the oceans have a higher rate of photochemical decay than the bulk DOC pool. Further process-based studies are required to determine the selective removal rates of these biomarkers for advancement of our understanding of the fate of this material in the ocean.