MoDIE: moderate dissolved inorganic carbon (DI13C) isotope enrichment for improved evaluation of DIC photochemical production in natural waters


• MoDIE allows analysis of very small DIC changes against large seawater background.
• MoDIE eliminates DIC-stripping to quantify photoproduced DIC in natural waters.
• Initial DIC photoproduction rates in blue water are reported using MoDIE.
• Ultra-precise DIC analysis via MoDIE could transform marine carbon cycle studies.


Photochemical reactions in natural waters are a sink for dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and a source of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). Although considered significant to the carbon budget of the oceans, DIC photoproduction rates remain poorly constrained due to the analytical challenge involved in accurately measuring very low production rates (likely sub-μM h 1 for blue ocean waters) relative to high background DIC concentrations (~ 2 mM). In an attempt to overcome this analytical limitation, almost all previous DIC photoproduction studies in marine systems have relied on the stripping of background DIC prior to irradiation, with unknown consequences for the integrity of the DOC pool and its photoreactivity, and none have resulted in a satisfactory determination of photoproduced DIC in open ocean waters. Here, we use small additions of NaH13CO3 (< 10% of background DIC concentrations) to achieve moderate DI13C isotope enrichment (MoDIE) of river, estuarine, and seawater samples. We then quantify the shift in δ13C of DIC in irradiated samples via liquid chromatography – isotope ratio mass spectrometry (LC-IRMS) and use these shifts to calculate photoproduced DIC. MoDIE provides a new method to more precisely (± 56 to ± 340 nM DIC) and more rapidly quantify DIC photoproduction compared to previous methods. MoDIE was evaluated by determining initial DIC photoproduction rates, along with associated broadband photochemical efficiency data (ranging from 144 to 280 μmol DIC per mol photons absorbed), in riverine to offshore waters, and produced the earliest time point and most precise measurement of DIC photoproduction in unmodified, low-CDOM, blue water (ag(325) = 0.30 m 1) reported to date. In addition to measuring small DIC changes from photochemistry, the use of MoDIE could provide a major advance for other ocean carbon cycling studies, including examination of oceanic respiration, carbonate mineral precipitation/dissolution, and assessment of ocean acidification.

Powers L. C., Brandes J. A., Stubbins A. & Miller W. L., 2017. MoDIE: moderate dissolved inorganic carbon (DI13C) isotope enrichment for improved evaluation of DIC photochemical production in natural waters. Marine Chemistry 194: 1-9. Article (subscription required).

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