Continuous fluorescence assessment of organic matter variability on the Bournbrook River, Birmingham, UK

EM Carstea, Andrew Baker, G Pavelescu, Ian Boomer

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36 Citations (Scopus)


Continuous monitoring of dissolved organic matter (DOM) character and concentration at hourly resolution is rare, despite the importance of analysing organic matter variability at high-temporal resolution to evaluate river carbon budgeting, river water health by detecting episodic pollution and to determine short-term variations in chemical and ecological function. The authors report a 2-week experiment performed oil DOM sampled from Bournbrook, Birmingham, UK, an urban river for which spectrophotometric (fluorescence. absorbance), physiochemical (dissolved organic carbon [DOC], electrical conductivity, pH) and isotopic (D/H) parameters have been measured at hourly frequency. Our results show that the river had sub-daily variations in both organic matter concentration and characteristics. In particular, after relatively high-magnitude precipitation events, organic carbon concentration increased, with an associated increase in intensity of both humic-like and tryptophan-like fluorescence. D/H isotopic ratio demonstrates different hydrological responses to different rainfall events, and organic matter character reflects this difference. Events with precipitation <2 mm typically yielded isotopically heavy water with relatively hydrophilic DOM and relatively low specific absorbance. Events with precipitation > 2 mm had isotopically lighter water with higher specific absorbance and a decrease in the proportion of microbially derived to humic-like fluorescence. In our heavily urbanized catchment, we interpret these signals as one where riverine DOM is dominated by storm sewer-derived 'old' organic matter at low-rainfall amounts and a mixed signal at high-precipitation amounts where 'event' Surface runoff-derived organic matter dominate during storm sewer and combined sewer overflow routed DOM. Copyright (C) 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1937-1946
Number of pages10
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2009


  • isotope hydrology
  • urban rivers
  • fluorescence
  • dissolved organic matter
  • absorbance


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