An in-depth assessment into simultaneous monitoring of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) and low-molecular-weight organic phosphorus (LMWOP) in aquatic environments using diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT)
Long-term laborious and thus costly monitoring of phosphorus (P) fractions is required in order to provide reasonable estimates of the levels of bioavailable phosphorus for eutrophication studies. A practical solution to this problem is the application of passive samplers, known as Diffusive Gradient in Thin films (DGTs), providing time-average concentrations. DGT, with the phosphate adsorbent Fe-oxide based binding gel, is capable of collecting both orthophosphate and low molecular weight organic phosphorus (LMWOP) compounds, such as adenosine monophosphate (AMP) and myo-inositol hexakisphosphate (IP6). The diffusion coefficient (D) is a key parameter relating the amount of analyte determined from the DGT to a time averaged ambient concentration. D at 20 °C for AMP and IP6 were experimentally determined to be 2.9 × 10−6 cm2 s−1 and 1.0 × 10−6 cm2 s−1, respectively. Estimations by conceptual models of LMWOP uptake by DGTs indicated that this fraction constituted more than 75% of the dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) accumulated. Since there is no one D for LMWOP, a D range was estimated through assessment of D models. The models tested for estimating D for a variety of common LMWOP molecules proved to be still too uncertain for practical use. The experimentally determined D for AMP and IP6 were therefore used as upper and lower D, respectively, in order to estimate minimum and maximum ambient concentrations of LMWOP. Validation of the DGT data was performed by comparing concentrations of P fractions determined in natural water samples with concentration of P fractions determined using DGT. Stream water draining three catchments with different land-use (forest, mixed and agriculture) showed clear differences in relative and absolute concentrations of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) and dissolved organic P (DOP). There was no significant difference between water sample and DGT DRP (p > 0.05). Moreover, the upper and lower limit D for LMWOP proved reasonable as water sample determined DOP was found to lie in-between the limits of DGT LMWOP concentrations, indicating that on average DOP consists mainly of LMWOP. “Best fit” D was determined for each stream in order to practically use the DGTs for estimating time average DOP. Applying DGT in a eutrophic lake provided insight into P cycling in the water column.