Biogeochemical characteristics of settling particulate organic matter in Lake Superior: A seasonal comparison

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To assess settling particulate organic matter (POM) seasonality and its availability to the benthic community, settling particulate matter was studied in terms of mass fluxes and main biogeochemical characteristics (including organic carbon (OC), nitrogen, and stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic values) at two Lake Superior offshore sites over the course of a year. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and hydrolysis, extraction, and derivatization were used to provide further compositional information. Carbon and nitrogen content, isotopic and wet chemical data, and FTIR spectra show that summer particulate material is mainly autochthonous, with higher proportions of amide and carbohydrate. FTIR shows that spring particulate material contains relatively high proportions of clay minerals, indicating major sources from sediment resuspension and/or spring runoff. Distinct amino acid distributions at the two sites, revealed by principal component analysis (PCA) based on amino acid mol% composition, possibly result from differences in OM sources and the degree of degradation occurring at the two sites. Carbohydrate (PCHO), total hydrolyzable amino acid (THAA) and FTIR data suggest that the nutritional value of bulk POM to benthic heterotrophs should be lower in spring than summer-fall, although both periods exhibited high sinking fluxes of total mass and OC. Due to sediment resuspension events and an oxic water column, organic matter eventually buried in Lake Superior's sediments has probably experienced extensive alteration due to several cycles through the water column and the bacterially-active sediment-water interface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-88
Number of pages13
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Biogeochemical characteristics
  • Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • Lake Superior
  • Particulate organic matter (POM)


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