Bulk Chemical Characteristics of Dissolved Organic Matter in the Ocean

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Science  20 Mar 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5051, pp. 1561-1564
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5051.1561


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is the largest reservoir of reduced carbon in the oceans. The nature of DOM is poorly understood, in part, because it has been difficult to isolate sufficient amounts of representative material for analysis. Tangential-flow ultrafiltration was shown to recover milligram amounts of >1000 daltons of DOM from seawater collected at three depths in the North Pacific Ocean. These isolates represented 22 to 33 percent of the total DOM and included essentially all colloidal material. The elemental, carbohydrate, and carbon-type (by 13C nuclear magnetic resonance) compositions of the isolates indicated that the relative abundance of polysaccharides was high (∼50 percent) in surface water and decreased to ∼25 percent in deeper samples. Polysaccharides thus appear to be more abundant and reactive components of seawater DOM than has been recognized.

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