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Molecular fingerprinting of particulate organic matter as a new tool for its source apportionment: changes along a headwater drainage in coarse, medium and fine particles as a function of rainfalls

Abstract : Tracking the sources of particulate organic matter (POM) exported from catchments is important to understand the transfer of energy from soils to oceans. The suitability of investigating the molecular composition of POM by thermally assisted hydrolysis and methylation using tetramethylammonium hydroxide directly coupled to gas chromatography and mass spectrometry is presented. The results of this molecular-fingerprint approach were compared with previously published elemental (% C, % N) and isotopic data (δ13C, δ15N) acquired in a nested headwater catchment in the Piedmont region, eastern United States of America (12 and 79 ha). The concordance between these results highlights the effectiveness of this molecular tool as a valuable method for source fingerprinting of POM. It emphasizes litter as the main source of exported POM at the upstream location (80±14 %), with an increasing proportion of streambed (SBed) sediment remobilization downstream (42 ± 29 %), specifically during events characterized by high rainfall amounts. At the upstream location, the source of POM seems to be controlled by the maximum and median hourly rainfall intensity. An added value of this method is to directly investigate chemical biomarkers and to mine their distributions in terms of biogeochemical functioning of an ecosystem. In this catchment, the distribution of plant-derived biomarkers characterizing lignin, cutin and suberin inputs were similar in SBed and litter, while the proportion of microbial markers was 4 times higher in SBed than in litter. These results indicate that SBed OM was largely from plant litter that has been processed by the aquatic microbial community.
Keywords : GEOF
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Laurent Jeanneau, Richard Rowland, Shreeram Inamdar. Molecular fingerprinting of particulate organic matter as a new tool for its source apportionment: changes along a headwater drainage in coarse, medium and fine particles as a function of rainfalls. Biogeosciences, European Geosciences Union, 2018, 15 (4), pp.973-985. ⟨10.5194/bg-15-973-2018⟩. ⟨insu-01714039⟩

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