Ultraviolet-visible and fluorescence spectral evidence of natural organic matter (NOM) changes along an estuarine salinity gradient

James J. Alberts, Monika Takács, John Schalles

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13 Scopus citations


A transect of the St Marys River estuary from above the point of maximum salt wedge penetration to coastal salinities was conducted in July 1999. None of the parameters examined-dissolved organic carbon (DOC) content, UV light absorbance at 254 nm, and Total Luminescence spectra-follow the rule of conservative mixing. The characteristics of the different molecular size fractions of the St Marys River natural organic matter (NOM), as well as the results of a laboratory mixing experiment, provided evidence that loss of larger molecular size compounds from riverine NOM may occur by coagulation at salinities up to 10. An apparent gain of carbon in the lower estuary was attributed to exports from abundant coastal marshes in this area. The Total Luminescence spectra of the riverine NOM can be described by two peaks, centered respectively around 340/445 nm, and 230/430 nm Excitation/Emission Wavelength Pair (EEWP), which are characteristic of humic materials of aquatic origin. The samples from the high salinity stations exhibit peaks at lower emission wavelength EEWP 320/424 nm, which can be considered as marine humic-like material. The presence of amino acid-tryptophan like peaks were observed, with EEWP 300/350 nm in some of the high salinity samples. This peak was of high relative fluorescence intensity. It is hypothesized that the intense biological activity of the salt marsh and near coastal area is responsible for the carbon addition as well as the appearance of the highly fluorescence amino acid-protein like material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-310
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Environmental Science(all)


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