Dissolved Natural Organic Matter (DNOM) is a heterogeneous mixture of partly degraded, oxidised and resynthesised organic compounds of terrestrial or aquatic origin. In the boreal biome, it plays a central role in element cycling and practically all biogeochemical processes governing the physico-chemistry of surface waters. Because it plays a central role in multiple aquatic processes, especially microbial respiration, an improved understanding of the biodegradability of the DNOM in surface water is needed. Here the current study, we used a relatively cheap and non-laborious analytical method to determine the biodegradability of DNOM, based on the rate and the time lapse at which it is decomposed. This was achieved by monitoring the rate of oxygen consumption during incubation with addition of nutrients. A synoptic method study, using a set of lake water samples from southeast Norway, showed that the maximum respiration rate (RR) and the normalised RR (respiration rate per unit of carbon) of the DNOM in the lakes varied significantly. This RR is conceived as a proxy for the biodegradability of the DNOM. The sUVa of the DNOM and the C:N ratio were the main predictors of the RR. This implies that the biodegradability of DNOM in these predominantly oligotrophic and dystrophic lake waters was mainly governed by their molecular size and aromaticity, in addition to its C:N ratio in the same manner as found for soil organic matter. The normalised RR (independently of the overall concentration of DOC) was predicted by the molecular weight and by the origin of the organic matter. The duration of the first phase of rapid biodegradation of the DNOM (BdgT) was found to be higher in lakes with a mixture of autochthonous and allochthonous DNOM, in addition to the amount of biodegradable DNOM.
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