Amino acids in the Pearl River Estuary and adjacent waters: origins, transformation and degradation
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Two cruises were conducted in the Pearl River Estuary (PRE) and adjacent coastal waters during July 1999 and 2000 to investigate spatial variation, transformation and degradation of amino acids (AAs). Salinity, suspended sediments (SS), chl a, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon, particulate organic carbon, AAs, and hexosamines were measured and analyzed. Concentrations of particulate hydrolysable AAs (PHAAs), dissolved combined AAs and dissolved free AAs ranged from 0.41 to 12.6 孯l L-1, 1.1 to 4.0 孯l L-1 and 0.15 to 1.10 孯l L-1, respectively. AAs concentrations were low in waters of salinity <10, increased to the maximum in the estuarine and coastal plumes (salinity =10-25) and decreased beyond the coastal plume. There was a region where PHAAs were maximum, which coincided with the region of the chl a maximum and depletion of dissolved inorganic phosphorus in the coastal plume south of Hong Kong. This indicates that most of the AAs in estuarine and coastal waters were produced through phytoplankton production and AAs might be a temporary sink for inorganic nitrogen. The ratios of AAs/HAs and glucosamine/galactosamine (Glc-NH2/Gal-NH2) were on average, 26.0 and 3.8, respectively, in biogenic particulate matter (chl a >5 姠L-1 and SS<10 mg L-1), decreased in turbid particles (SS>20 mg L-1) and reached the lowest values of 5.8 and 1.4 in sediments. In particular, the ratios of AAs/HAs, Glc-NH2/Gal-NH2 were low in the upper or northwest side of the estuary where turbidity was high. This indicated that these AAs were "old", likely due to resuspension of refractory organic matter from sediments or zooplankton grazing modification and bacterial reworking as the salt wedge advanced upstream near the bottom. Apparently, the dynamics of AAs in the PRE appeared to be governed by biological production processes and estuarine circulation in the estuary. As the chl a maximum developed downstream in the estuarine and coastal plume and the salt wedge moved upstream at the bottom, AAs increased and were subjected to sinking as particulates, grazing by zooplankton and reworking by bacterial activity. Sinking AAs would be transformed and modified in the lower layer, which would be brought back into the estuary in the salt wedge during the estuarine circulation.
Continental Shelf Research