AME 26:295-304 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/ame026295

Photochemical production of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and primary amines from dissolved organic nitrogen in waters of two estuaries and adjacent surficial groundwaters

Dirk J. Koopmans1, Deborah A. Bronk2,*

1Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602-3636, USA
2Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062-1346, USA
*Corresponding author. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Recent studies have shown that in a number of humic-rich surface waters in North America, NH4+ is released when dissolved organic matter (DOM) is exposed to sunlight. However, photochemical NH4+ production has not been observed in all surface waters, and factors that contribute to it are not well understood. We hypothesized that the presence or absence of NH4+ photoproduction may be affected by the light exposure history of DOM. The present study was undertaken to determine whether DOM from surficial groundwaters, with minimal light exposure history, would produce labile nitrogen (N) photoproducts more consistently. In this study, estuarine surface waters and surficial groundwaters, collected just adjacent to estuaries in Georgia and South Carolina, USA, were exposed to sunlight to quantify the photochemical production of NH4+, dissolved primary amines (DPA), and NO2-. The photoproduction of NH4+ was observed in 4 of 5 irradiated estuarine surface water samples but in only 2 of 13 groundwater samples. In contrast, NH4+ concentrations decreased in 5 of 13 groundwater samples when exposed to sunlight. The results indicate that a small amount of NH4+ may be lost from waters in which groundwater-derived DOM is first exposed to sunlight. No consistent trends were observed in the photoproduction or loss of DPA and NO2-.


KEY WORDS: UV radiation · Dissolved organic nitrogen · Groundwater · Ammonium · Dissolved primary amines · Nitrite


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