Fate of organo-mineral particles in streams: Microbial degradation by streamwater & biofilm assemblages

William Hunter, Markus Raich, Wolfgang Wanek, Tom Battin

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    Inland waters are of global biogeochemical importance. They receive carbon inputs of ~ 4.8 Pg C/ y of which, 12 % is buried, 18 % transported to the oceans, and 70 % supports aquatic secondary production. However, the mechanisms that determine the fate of organic matter (OM) in these systems are poorly defined. One aspect of this is the formation of organo-mineral complexes in aquatic systems and their potential as a route for OM transport and burial vs. their use as carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) sources within aquatic systems. Organo-mineral particles form by sorption of dissolved OM to freshly eroded mineral surfaces and may contribute to ecosystem-scale particulate OM fluxes. We experimentally tested the availability of mineral-sorbed OM as a C & N source for streamwater microbial assemblages and streambed biofilms. Organo-mineral particles were constructed in vitro by sorption of 13C:15N-labelled amino acids to hydrated kaolin particles, and microbial degradation of these particles compared with equivalent doses of 13C:15N-labelled free amino acids. Experiments were conducted in 120 ml mesocosms over 7 days using biofilms and water sampled from the Oberer Seebach stream (Austria). Each incubation experienced a 16:8 light:dark regime, with metabolism monitored via changes in oxygen concentrations between photoperiods. The relative fate of the organo-mineral particles was quantified by tracing the mineralization of the 13C and 15N labels and their incorporation into microbial biomass. Here we present the initial results of 13C-label mineralization, incorporation and retention within dissolved organic carbon pool. The results indicate that 514 (± 219) μmol/ mmol of the 13:15N labeled free amino acids were mineralized over the 7-day incubations. By contrast, 186 (± 97) μmol/ mmol of the mineral-sorbed amino acids were mineralized over a similar period. Thus, organo-mineral complexation reduced amino acid mineralization by ~ 60 %, with no differences observed between the streamwater and biofilm assemblages. Throughout the incubations, biofilms were observed to leach dissolved organic carbon (DOC). However, within the streamwater assemblage the presence of both organo-mineral particles and kaolin particles was associated with significant DOC removal (-1.7 % and -7.5 % respectively). Consequently, the study demonstrates that mineral and organo-mineral particles can limit the availability of DOC in aquatic systems, providing nucleation sites for flocculation and fresh mineral surfaces, which facilitate OM-sorption. The formation of these organo-mineral particles subsequently restricts microbial OM degradation, potentially altering the transport and facilitating the burial of OM within streams.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationFall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 9-13 Dec.
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    EventAmerican Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2013 - San Francisco, United States
    Duration: 09 Dec 201313 Dec 2013


    ConferenceAmerican Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2013
    Abbreviated titleAGU 2013
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    CitySan Francisco


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