Fluorescence spectroscopy opens new windows into dissolved organic matter dynamics in freshwater ecosystems: A review

Fellman, Jason B., Eran Hood, and Robert G. M. Spencer

Limnol. Oceanogr., 55(6), 2010, 2452-2462 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.6.2452

ABSTRACT: The biochemical composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM) strongly influences its biogeochemical role in freshwater ecosystems, yet DOM composition measurements are not routinely incorporated into ecological studies. To date, the majority of studies of freshwater ecosystems have relied on bulk analyses of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen to obtain information about DOM cycling. The problem with this approach is that the biogeochemical significance of DOM can only partially be elucidated using bulk analyses alone because bulk measures cannot detect most carbon and nitrogen transformations. Advances in fluorescence spectroscopy provide an alternative to traditional approaches for characterizing aquatic DOM, and allow for the rapid and precise characterization of DOM necessary to more comprehensively trace DOM dynamics. It is within this context that we discuss the use of fluorescence spectroscopy to provide a novel approach to tackling a longstanding problem: understanding the dynamics and biogeochemical role of DOM. We highlight the utility of fluorescence characterization of DOM and provide examples of the potential range of applications for incorporating DOM fluorescence into ecological studies in the hope that this rapidly evolving technique will further our understanding of the biogeochemical role of DOM in freshwater ecosystems.

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