Photochemical and microbial transformation of particulate organic matter depending on its source and size

Han Saem Lee, Jin Hur, Hyun Sang Shin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Particulate organic matter (POM) in water systems can be converted into dissolved organic matter (DOM) through various pathways depending on its properties and transformation. Thus, information on the behavior of POM is crucial for fully understanding water systems and the carbon cycle. In this study, the effects of particle size and the source of POM, as well as photochemical and microbial changes in DOM characteristics subsequently released from POM were evaluated using various spectral indices, excitation-emission matrix combined with parallel factor analysis components, and principal component analysis. The amount of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) released from POM during suspension was significantly associated with the carbon content of POM (p < 0.05). The amount of DOC (mg-C/g-SS) decreased in mineral-bound POM as a result of microbial degradation but increased in biogenic POM as a result of microbial dissolution, owing to the structural differences in organic matter from different sources. Mineral-bound POM showed more DOC production by photochemical desorption than microbial degradation, whereas biogenic POM displayed the opposite trend. The DOM derived from fine POM had more humified terrestrial humic-like substances than those derived from coarse POM. Principal components 1 and 2 were associated with DOC production and degree of humification, respectively. The increase in the degree of aromaticity and humification of organic matter was higher in mineral-bound POM by photochemical desorption of highly humified organic matter and in the biogenic POM by microbial dissolution. In conclusion, this study was able to provide basic information on the transformation of POM, thus, it is expected to broaden the knowledge of the biogeochemical cycle of organic matter.

Original languageEnglish
Article number159506
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 20 Jan 2023


  • Biogenic organic matter
  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Humification
  • Mineral-bound organic matter
  • Terrestrial source


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