Temporal dynamics of dissolved and particulate organic carbon in the northern Adriatic Sea in relation to the mucilage events

Michele Giani, Fabio Savelli, Daniela Berto, Valentina Zangrando, Bozena Cosović, Vjerocka Vojvodić
Science of the Total Environment 2005 December 15, 353 (1): 126-38
The accumulation of dissolved and particulate organic matter may play an important role in mucilage formation in the northern Adriatic. Distributions of dissolved and particulate organic carbon were therefore investigated during the period June 1999-July 2002, when massive mucilage events occurred: in the summer of 2000 and, to a greater extent, of 2002. The seasonal variations in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations were significant, doubling in summer (up to 150 micromol L(-1)) with respect to winter. The particulate organic carbon (POC) variations were also very large, with a less pronounced seasonal pattern compared to DOC, because the POC changes are much more dependent both on river discharges and on phytoplankton blooms. The comparison of the concentrations between the period before (March-May) and after the onset of mucilage events (June-August) showed that DOC, but particularly POC, were higher in the period before the event of 2002, more markedly in the surface waters of low salinity. The POC increased, reaching mean concentrations of up to 36 micromol L(-1) in March 2002 before the outbreak of the massive mucilage formation in June. This suggests that POC may have a more important role in the mucilage formation than DOC. The highest seasonal variations of organic matter concentrations took place in the upper layer of lower salinity, stressing the importance of stratification and pycnoclines for accumulation and aggregation of the organic matter in the northern Adriatic. The POC contribution to the total organic carbon was low in the oligotrophic waters (DOC/POC ratio >15) and increased with the phytoplankton biomass in the productive waters (DOC/POC ratio <10). Particulate organic carbon predominated over the dissolved inside the mucilage aggregate (DOC/POC ratio <1), probably because aggregation processes, in which colloidal organic carbon is involved, are important. The organic carbon within the aggregates reached a concentration of 13.6 mmol L(-1) which was about 100 times more than in the surrounding waters or in the waters when the mucilages were absent. This indicates that distributions of organic carbon in the northern Adriatic can be extremely patchy during mucilage events.

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