Origin and fate of dissolved organic matter in four shallow Baltic Sea estuaries

Maren Voss, Eero Asmala, Ines Bartl, Jacob Carstensen, Daniel J. Conley, Joachim W. Dippner, Christoph Humborg, Kaarina Lukkari, Jolita Petkuviene, Heather Reader, Colin Stedmon, Irma Vybernaite-Lubiene, Nicola Wannicke, Mindaugas Zilius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Coastal waters have strong gradients in dissolved organic matter (DOM) quantity and characteristics, originating from terrestrial inputs and autochthonous production. Enclosed seas with high freshwater input therefore experience high DOM concentrations and gradients from freshwater sources to more saline waters. The brackish Baltic Sea experiences such salinity gradients from east to west and from river mouths to the open sea. Furthermore, the catchment areas of the Baltic Sea are very diverse and vary from sparsely populated northern areas to densely populated southern zones. Coastal systems vary from enclosed or open bays, estuaries, fjords, archipelagos and lagoons where the residence time of DOM at these sites varies and may control the extent to which organic matter is biologically, chemically or physically modified or simply diluted with transport off-shore. Data of DOM with simultaneous measurements of dissolved organic (DO) nitrogen (N), carbon (C) and phosphorus (P) across a range of contrasting coastal systems are scarce. Here we present data from the Roskilde Fjord, Vistula and Öre estuaries and Curonian Lagoon; four coastal systems with large differences in salinity, nutrient concentrations, freshwater inflow and catchment characteristics. The C:N:P ratios of DOM of our data, despite high variability, show site specific significant differences resulting largely from differences residence time. Microbial processes seemed to have minor effects, and only in spring did uptake of DON in the Vistula and Öre estuaries take place and not at the other sites or seasons. Resuspension from sediments impacts bottom waters and the entire shallow water column in the Curonian Lagoon. Finally, our data combined with published data show that land use in the catchments seems to impact the DOC:DON and DOC:DOP ratios of the tributaries most.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-403
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Early online date2020 Oct 15
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Geology
  • Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources


  • Baltic Sea
  • Coastal systems
  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Riverine input


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