Assessing the biodegradability of terrestrially-derived organic matter in Scottish sea loch sediments
- 1UHI Millennium Inst., Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage Marine Lab., Oban PA37 1QA, Scotland, UK
- 2Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban PA37 1QA, Scotland, UK
- 3Environmental Systems Research Group, Geography Department, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland, UK
- *present address: Institute of Marine Geology and Chemistry, National Sun Yat-Sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Abstract. Lignin oxidation products, oxygen uptake rates, molar organic carbon to nitrogen (OC/N) ratio (from bulk elemental analysis) and Rp values (from loss on ignition experiments, the ratio of the refractory to total organic matter, OM) were determined for sediments along transects of Loch Creran and Loch Etive. Lignin data indicated the importance of riverine inputs contributing to land-derived carbon in the lochs as total lignin (Λ, mg/100 mg organic carbon, OC) decreased from 0.69 to 0.45 and 0.70 to 0.29 from the head to outside of Loch Creran and Loch Etive, respectively. In addition, significant correlations of lignin content against total OM and OC (p<0.05) also suggested a distinct contribution of terrestrial OM to carbon pools in the lochs. The general trend of decreasing oxygen uptake rates from the head (20.8 mmole m−2 day−1) to mouth (9.4 mmole m−2 day−1) of Loch Creran indicates decomposition of OM. Biodegradability of the sedimentary OM was also characterized by the increase of Rp values from the head to mouth of the lochs: 0.40 to 0.80 in Loch Etive and 0.43 to 0.63 in Loch Creran. Furthermore, the molar OC/N ratio decreased from 11.2 to 6.4 in Loch Creran, and from 17.5 to 8.2 in Loch Etive. Derived rate constants for OM degradation were found to decrease from LC0 to LC1, and increase from RE5 to RE6. This work demonstrates that oxygen uptake rates, Rp values and molar OC/N ratio are able to serve as useful proxies to indicate the biodegradability of sedimentary OM.