Processing of humic-rich riverine dissolved organic matter by estuarine bacteria: effects of predegradation and inorganic nutrients

E. Asmala, R. Autio, H. Kaartokallio, Colin Stedmon, Thomas D.N.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The bioavailability of predegraded dissolved organic matter (DOM) from a humic-rich, boreal river to estuarine bacteria from the Baltic Sea was studied in 39-day bioassays. The river waters had been exposed to various degrees of bacterial degradation by storing them between 0 and 465 days in dark prior to the bioassay. The resulting predegraded DOM was inoculated with estuarine bacteria and the subsequent changes in DOM quantity and quality measured. During the incubations, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and oxygen concentrations decreased, indicating heterotrophic activity. Coloured DOM was degraded less than DOC, indicating a selective utilization of DOM, and humic-like fluorescence components increased during the incubations. The amount of DOC degraded was not affected by the length of DOM predegradation. The percentage of bioavailable DOC (%BDOC) was higher in experiment units with added inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus than without addition (on average 13.5 % and 9.0, respectively), but had no effect on the degradation of fresh, non-predegraded, DOC (%BDOC 12.0 %). Bacterial growth efficiency (BGE) was highest (65 ± 2 %) in the units with fresh DOM, and lowest in units with predegraded DOM and no added inorganic nutrients (11 ± 4 %). The addition of inorganic nutrients increased the BGE of predegraded DOM units by an average of 28 ± 4 %. There was no significant effect on BGE by length of predegradation after the initial drop (<3 months). This study suggests that both the length of predegradation and the inorganic nutrient status in the receiving estuary has consequences to carbon cycling and will determine the amount of terrestrial-derived DOC being ultimately assimilated into marine food webs
Original languageEnglish
JournalAquatic Sciences
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)451-463
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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