Spatial and temporal distribution of chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) fluorescence and its contribution to light attenuation in UK waterbodies

J Foden, DB Sivyer, DK Mills, MJ Devlin

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Vertical attenuation of light through the water column (Kd) is attributable to the optically active components of phytoplankton, suspended particulate material (SPM) and chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM). Of these, CDOM is not routinely monitored and was the main focus of this study. Concentrations and spatio-temporal patterns of CDOM fluorescence were investigated between August 2004 and March 2006, to quantify the correlation coefficient between CDOM and salinity and to better characterise the contribution of CDOM to Kd. Sampling was conducted at a broad range of UK and Republic of Ireland locations; these included more than 15 estuaries, 30 coastal and 70 offshore sites in the southern North Sea, Irish Sea, Liverpool Bay, Western Approaches and the English Channel.

An instrument package was used; a logger with multi-sensor array was deployed vertically through the water column and concurrent water samples were taken to determine salinity, CDOM fluorescence and SPM. Surface CDOM fluorescence values ranged between 0.05 and 16.80 S.Fl.U. (standardised fluorescence units). A strong, negative correlation coefficient of CDOM to salinity (r2 = 0.81) was found. CDOM absorption (aCDOMλ) was derived from fluorescence measurements and was in the range 0.02–2.2 m−1 with mean 0.15 m−1. These results were comparable with direct measurements of aCDOMλ in the same geographic regions, as published by other workers.

Spatial differences in CDOM fluorescence were generally explicable by variation in salinity, in local conditions or catchment areas; e.g. CDOM at the freshwater end was 3.54–11.30 S.Fl.U., reflecting the variety of rivers sampled and their different catchments. Temporal changes in CDOM fluorescence were related to salinity. A significant and positive correlation was found between CDOM and Kd, and although CDOM was found to be less influential than SPM on Kd, it was still of significance particularly in coastal and offshore waters of lower turbidity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-717
Number of pages11
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number4
Early online date2 Jul 2008
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2008


  • chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) fluorescence
  • euphotic depth
  • light attenuation
  • salinity
  • suspended particulate matter (SPM)
  • UK waters

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