Absorption spectroscopy of colored dissolved organic carbon in Georgia (USA) rivers: the impact of molecular size distribution

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Yosef Z. YACOBI *
James J. ALBERTS
Monika TAKÁCS
Michelle McELVAINE
(*) Corresponding Author:
Yosef Z. YACOBI | yzy@ocean.org.il

Abstract

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) was collected in six rivers that transect the coastal plain of Georgia in July 1999 and February 2000. DOC concentrations ranged from 4.9 to 40.7 g m-3 and from 7.1 to 40.5 g m-3, respectively. The absorption coefficient at 440 nm was highly correlated with DOC concentration, suggesting that the optical parameter may be utilized for rapid estimation of DOC in these waters. The isolated DOC was separated into fractions of operationally defined molecular size, using an ultrafiltration technique that yielded three fractions: <10 ("small"), 10-50 ("medium") and >50 ("large") kilodalton. The smallest fraction was the most abundant (>50%) in 4 rivers in July and in all rivers in February, and considerably more abundant than in previous years. The wavelength-dependent absorption of the total DOC and its fractions showed approximately uniform shape of a curve declining exponentially with the increase of wavelength. The average slope of logarithmically transformed curves was 0.0151 and 0.0159 nm-1, for the material collected in July and February, respectively and showed a dependence on DOC molecular size. In unfractionated DOC samples, the mass-specific light absorption determined at 440 nm was on average 0.33 m2 g-1 in July, and 0.26 m2 g-1 in February. The mass-specific absorption coefficient in all fractions ranged between 0.085 and 1.347 m2 g-1 in July and between 0.085 and 1.877 m2 g-1 in February, and was positively correlated with the molecular size of the measured samples. The results of the reported study clearly suggest that the specific absorption coefficient of the yellow substance is an outcome of the relative contribution of its different size fractions.

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