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Growing Algae Alter Spectroscopic Characteristics and Chlorine Reactivity of Dissolved Organic Matter from Thermally-Altered Forest Litters

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journal contribution
posted on 01.07.2016, 00:00 by Kuo-Pei Tsai, Alex T. Chow
Previous studies demonstrated that wildfires alter spectroscopic characteristics of terrestrial dissolved organic matter (DOM) and increase specific disinfection byproduct formation potential (SDBP-FP). However, it is unclear whether characteristics of thermally altered DOM (TA-DOM) are altered by biogeochemical processes (e.g., transformed by growing algae) before entering water treatment facilities. The freshwater green algae Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata and blue-green algae Microcystis aeruginosa were separately incubated in the mixture of cultural medium and pine (Pinus palustris) litter-derived TA-DOMs (50 °C, 250 °C, and 400 °C) over 7 days to demonstrate the effects of algal growth on alterations in SDBP-FP. TA-DOM optical characteristics and SDBP-FP were quantified by absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy and chlorination-based DBP-FP experiments. After the inoculation with P. subcapitata, TA-DOM aromaticity (indicated by SUVA254) increased from 1.19 to 1.90 L/mg/m for 50 °C-extract but decreased from 4.95 to 3.75 L/mg/m for 400 °C-extract. The fraction of tyrosine-like components decreased from 25.9 to 9.3% for 50 °C-extract but increased from 0.9 to 1.3% for 400 °C-extract. Same patterns were also observed for M. aeruginosa. Growing algae generally increased chlorine reactivities and formations of trihalomethanes, haloacetonitriles, chloral hydrate, and haloketones. Our data suggest that the biodegradable dissolved organic carbon in TA-DOM decreases as fire intensity (i.e., temperature) increases. Postfire algal blooms can increase chlorine reactivity of fire-affected terrestrial DOM for DBP formation.