Photochemical production of ammonium and transformation of dissolved organic matter in the Baltic Sea

Colin A. Stedmon, Stiig Markager, Lars Tranvik, Leif Kronberg, Tove Slätis, Winnie Martinsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The release of ammonium from the photochemical degradation of dissolved organic matter (DOM) has been proposed by earlier studies as a potentially important remineralisation pathway for refractory organic nitrogen. In this study the photochemical production of ammonium from Baltic Sea DOM was assessed in the laboratory. Filtered samples from the Bothnian Bay, the Gulf of Finland and the Arkona Sea were exposed to UVA light at environmentally relevant levels, and the developments in ammonium concentrations, light absorption, fluorescence and molecular size distribution were followed. The exposures resulted in a decrease in DOM absorption and loss of the larger sized fraction of DOM. Analysis of the fluorescence properties of DOM using parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC) identified 6 independent components. Five components decreased in intensity as a result of the UVA exposures. One component was produced as a result of the exposures and represents labile photoproducts derived from terrestrial DOM. The characteristics of DOM in samples from the Bothnian Bay and Gulf of Finland were similar and dominated by terrestrially derived material. The DOM from the Arkona Sea was more autochthonous in character. Photoammonification differed depending on the composition of DOM. Calculated photoammonification rates in surface waters varied between 121 and 382 μmol NH4+ L−1 d−1. Estimated areal daily production rates ranged between 37 and 237 μmol NH4+ m−2 d−1, which are comparable to atmospheric deposition rates and suggest that photochemical remineralisation of organic nitrogen may be a significant source of bioavailable nitrogen to surface waters during summer months with high irradiance and low inorganic nitrogen concentrations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Chemistry
Issue number3-4
Pages (from-to)227-240
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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