Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Characterization of organic matter quality and content in Columbia River suspended particulate matter by cupric oxide oxidation Public Deposited

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  • The organic content of the Columbia River suspended particulate matter (SPM) results from the input of autochthonous (phytoplankton) and allochthonous (terrestrial vascular plants) production. The contribution of these two sources appears seasonal and responds to factors such as rainfall, runoff, river flow, light and nutrients availability. While numerous studies have focused on the phytoplankton input to this system, very little is known about the nature of the land-derived contribution. One possible biomarker for terrestrial organic matter (OM) is lignin, a compound solely found in vascular plant cell walls. Upon alkaline CuO oxidation, lignin yields a series of eight major vanillyl (V), syringyl (S) and cinnamyl (C) phenols. Their relative composition provides insights about the origin (i.e., plant type) and level of degradation of samples, through the use of a property-property (i.e., S/V - C/V) plot and the vanillic acid /vanillin [(Ad/Al)ᵥ] index, respectively. Analysis of mostly bulk SPM samples collected on glass fiber filters (GFC) and some size-fractionated SPM samples from the Columbia River and its estuary, yielded a detailed evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the CuO oxidation technique as well as new biogeochemical insights to the origin and fate of the terrestrial OM at the land-sea interface. A thorough study of the CuO oxidation products from these samples revealed that GFC filters were not suitable for lignin analysis. Use of such media resulted in lower compound recovery and an artificial increase of the degradation index (Ad/Al)ᵥ. Experiments showed that this artifact was mainly due to the composition of the GFC filters [Si(OH)4] and at some level was sensitive to the particulate organic matter quality. However, not all the parameters resulting from the CuO oxidation of the Columbia River samples were compromised by the GFC problem. Yields of three nfatty acids (non-lignin compounds) from the CuO oxidation treatment of samples showed good correlation with compositional parameters such as (CIN)at and chlorophyll-a concentration and provided tracers of autochthonous OM. Compared to other rivers in the continental US and to the Fraser River (Canada), OM in the Columbia River appeared enriched in particulate nitrogen (PN) due to its high phytoplankton contribution. Results for land-derived CuO products showed that most of the allochthonous OM in the Columbia River originated yearlong from gymnosperm wood with an increase in contribution from angiosperm non-woody tissue evident during spring freshets. As a whole, no differences were seen between samples from the river and estuary possibly owing to the overall sampling strategy employed in this study. The CuO oxidation method holds promise as an analytical way to simultaneously visualize terrestrial vascular plants and phytoplankton contribution to OM.
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