Sampling, storage and laboratory approaches for dissolved organic matter characterisation in freshwaters: Moving from nutrient fraction to molecular-scale characterisation

Charlotte E M Lloyd*, Penny J Johnes , Jonathan Pemberton, Christopher A Yates, Davey Jones, Richard P Evershed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research has highlighted the importance of dissolved organic matter (DOM) for ecosystem function and because of this paradigm shift, it has become crucial to not only quantify its contribution to river nutrient loads but also to characterise its composition. There has been a significant research effort utilising optical methods, such as fluorescence and UV–Vis spectrophotometry, in order to start exploring DOM character. However, these methods still lack the granularity to understand the chemical composition at the molecular level, which is vital to properly understanding its functional role in freshwater ecosystems. As a direct result, there has been a shift towards including molecular-scale analyses to investigate the in-stream processing of the material. Alongside this, recent methodological advancements, particularly in mass spectrometry are opening new opportunities for probing one of the most complex environmental mixtures. However, in order to fully exploit these opportunities, it is key that the way that samples are collected, processed and stored is considered carefully such that sample integrity is maintained. There are additional challenges when collecting water samples for analysis at molecular scale, for example the ultra-low concentrations of individual compounds within DOM means that the samples are sensitive to contamination. This paper discusses current sample collection, processing and storage protocols for this C, N and P quantification and characterisation in freshwaters, and proposes a new standardised protocol suitable for both nutrient fraction quantification and molecular scale analyses, based on method development and testing undertaken in our UK Natural Environment Research Council large grant programme, characterising the nature, origins and ecological significance of Dissolved Organic Matter IN freshwater Ecosystems (DOMAINE).
Original languageEnglish
Article number154105
Number of pages10
JournalScience of The Total Environment
Early online date24 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded under the Natural Environment Research Council DOMAINE Large Grant programme ( NE/K010689/1 ) “Characterising the nature, origins and ecological significance of dissolved organic matter in freshwater ecosystems”.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


  • Riverine dissolved organic matter
  • Molecular analysis
  • Sample collection
  • Sample processing
  • Sample storage
  • Protocols


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