The effect of sample drying temperature on marine particulate organic carbon composition

TitleThe effect of sample drying temperature on marine particulate organic carbon composition
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsRosengard, SZ, Lam, PJ, McNichol, AP, Johnson, CG, Galy, VV
JournalLimnology and Oceanography: Methods
Pagination286 - 298
Date PublishedJan-05-2018

Compositional changes in marine particulate organic carbon (POC) throughout the water column trace important processes that underlie the biological pump's efficiency. While labor‐intensive, particle sampling efforts offer potential to expand the empirical POC archive at different stages in the water column, provided that organic composition is sufficiently preserved between sampling and analysis. The standard procedure for preserving organic matter composition in marine samples is to immediately store particles at −80°C to −20°C until they can be freeze‐dried for analysis. This report investigates the effect of warmer drying and storage temperatures on POC composition, which applies to the majority of POC samples collected in the field without intention for organic analysis. Particle samples collected off Woods Hole, Massachusetts were immediately dried at 56°C, at room temperature, or stored in a freezer until freeze‐drying. Results show that oven‐ and air‐drying did not shift the bulk composition (i.e., carbon and nitrogen content and stable isotope composition) of POC in the samples relative to freeze‐drying. Similarly, warmer drying temperatures did not affect POC thermal stability, as inferred by ramped pyrolysis/oxidation, a growing technique that uses a continuous temperature ramp to differentiate components of organic carbon by their decomposition temperature. Oven‐ and air‐drying did depress lipid abundances relative to freeze‐drying, the extent of which depended on compound size and structure. The data suggest that field samples dried at room temperatures and 56°C are appropriate for assessing bulk POC composition and thermal stability, but physical mechanisms such as molecular volatilization bias their lipid composition.