Variation in dissolved organic matter (DOM) stoichiometry in U.K. freshwaters: Assessing the influence of land cover and soil C:N ratio on DOM composition

Christopher A. Yates, Penny J. Johnes, Alun T. Owen, Francesca L. Brailsford, Helen C. Glanville, Christopher D. Evans, Miles R. Marshall, David L. Jones, Charlotte E.M. Lloyd, Tim Jickells, Richard P. Evershed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) plays an important role in freshwater biogeochemistry. To investigate the influence of catchment character on the quality and quantity of DOM in freshwaters, 45 sampling sites draining subcatchments of contrasting soil type, hydrology, and land cover within one large upland-dominated and one large lowland-dominated catchment were sampled over a 1-yr period. Dominant land cover in each subcatchment included: arable and horticultural, blanket peatland, coniferous woodland, and improved, unimproved, acid, and calcareous grasslands. The composition of the C, N, and P pool was determined as a function of the inorganic nutrient species (NO3 , NO2 , NH4 +, and PO4 3−) and dissolved organic nutrient (dissolved organic carbon [DOC], dissolved organic nitrogen [DON], and dissolved organic phosphorus [DOP]) concentrations. DOM quality was assessed by calculation of the molar DOC : DON and DOC : DOP ratios and specific ultraviolet absorbance (SUVA254). In catchments with little anthropogenic nutrient inputs, DON and DOP typically composed > 80% of the total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) and total dissolved phosphorus (TDP) concentrations. By contrast, in heavily impacted agricultural catchments DON and DOP typically comprised 5–15% of TDN and 10–25% of TDP concentrations. Significant differences in DOC : DON and DOC : DOP ratios were observed between land cover class with significant correlations observed between both the DOC : DON and DOC : DOP molar ratios and SUVA254 (rs = 0.88 and 0.84, respectively). Analysis also demonstrated a significant correlation between soil C : N ratio and instream DOC : DON/DOP (rs = 0.79 and 0.71, respectively). We infer from this that soil properties, specifically the C : N ratio of the soil organic matter pool, has a significant influence on the composition of DOM in streams draining through these landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2328-2340
Number of pages13
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


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