Effect of instrument-specific response on the analysis of fulvic acid fluorescence spectra

Rose M. Cory, Matthew P. Miller, Diane M. McKnight, Jennifer J. Guerard, and Penney L. Miller

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 8:67-78 (2010) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2010.8.67

ABSTRACT: Fluorescence spectroscopy has been extensively employed to characterize the source, age, and reactivity of aquatic dissolved organic matter (DOM). However, there is no consensus on the protocols for collecting and correcting DOM fluorescence spectra for the instrument-specific response associated with each component on a fluorometer involved in the excitation of DOM and the resulting detection of DOM emission. The central objective of this study was to evaluate the removal of instrument-specific response from DOM fluorescence spectra collected on three different fluorometers using manufacturer-provided emission and excitation correction files. We evaluated criteria and protocols for comparison of removal of instrument response, using quinine sulfate, a well-characterized fluorophore, as well as the International Humic Substance Society's microbially and terrestrially derived reference end-member fulvic acids: Pony Lake and Suwannee River fulvic acids, respectively. Our results demonstrate that sample spectra collected on different fluorometers differed significantly before correction. Although the effectiveness of manufacturer-provided correction factors in removal of instrument response from sample spectra varied by instrument, spectral overlap of the same sample on multiple instruments improved after correction. Our results suggest that conclusions based on analysis of trends within a dataset of DOM fluorescence spectra should be expected to be independent of the fluorometer employed.