Dissolved organic matter in lakes: Chemical diversity and continuum of reactivity

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Friessalen, EBC, Norbyvägen 14, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Mostovaya, Alina
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Limnologi
  • Kontaktperson: Mostovaya, Alina
  • Disputation


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is the largest pool of organic carbon in aquatic systems and an important component of the global carbon cycle. Large amounts of DOM are decomposed within lakes, resulting in fluxes of CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere. Therefore, there is a considerable interest in understanding the controls of DOM decomposition in freshwaters. There is evidence that in lakes intrinsic controls related to DOM composition are of primary importance, yet our knowledge about molecular drivers of DOM degradation is limited. This thesis addresses the link between chemical composition and reactivity of lake DOM by applying an experimental approach, molecular-level DOM characterization, and kinetic modeling of DOM decay.

The first study shows that photoinduced transformations and partial removal of colored aromatic components of DOM have profound effects on DOM degradation kinetics, mediated by the shifts in the relative share of rapidly and slowly degrading DOM fractions. Two following studies estimate exponential decay coefficients for each individual molecular formula identified within bulk DOM. A continuous distribution of exponential decay coefficients is found within bulk DOM, which directly corroborates the central and previously empirically untested assumption behind the reactivity continuum model of DOM decay. Further, individual decay rates are evaluated in connection to specific molecular properties. On average, highly unsaturated and phenolic compounds appear to be more persistent than compounds with higher aromatic content (plant polyphenols and polycondensed aromatics), and aliphatic compounds demonstrate the highest decay rates. The reactivity of aromatics additionally increases with increasing nominal oxidation state of carbon. Molecular analysis further indicates that increasing reactivity of DOM after UV exposure is caused by disintegration of supramolecular complexes. Study IV shows that changes in relative proportion of terrestrial versus algal DOM control degradability of DOM through seasons. Under ice, when algal-derived DOM is maximally depleted, DOM degradation potential converges to similarly low levels, regardless of lake type (productive or humic), and bacterial respiration primarily relies on terrestrial carbon. This suggests a general pattern of baseline metabolism across boreal lakes. I conclude that DOM is a dynamic reactivity continuum and a tight link exists between DOM behavior and compositional properties.