Qualitative and quantitative analysis of source for organic carbon and nitrogen in sediments of rivers and lakes based on stable isotopes

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2020 Jun 1;195:110436. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2020.110436. Epub 2020 Mar 14.


Sediment is the most dominant reservoir of organic pollutants in the aquatic environment. Understanding carbon and nitrogen sources in sediments and factors that controls distribution enhances our understanding of biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nitrogen. Different end-members and surface sediments of rivers and sediments profiles of lakes were collected. The concentrations of TOC and TON and their δ13C and δ15N were studied for qualitative and quantitative analysis of natural and anthropogenic sources. The results show that TOC and TON concentrations of the sediments from rivers range from 0.63% to 10.83% and 0.06%-0.86%, respectively, indicating substantial great environmental risks in these rivers. The concentrations of TOC and TON for the four sediment profiles below the 5 cm, increase in the order of Miyun < Chuidiao < Qunming < Houhai, as influenced by their respective environment condition. Moreover, water quality was quite good and there was no risk of eutrophication in Miyun reservoir. δ13Corg and δ15Norg in surface sediments of the studied 18 rivers range from -27.2‰ to -24.9‰ and -2.2‰ to +10.9‰, respectively. Based on a simple δ13C-based end-member mixing and a C/N ratio model, organic matter in the surface sediments of these rivers were mainly derived from sewage and C3 plant. In addition, the sources of organic matter differed in each layer of the four sediment profiles. This study provides a reliable method for qualitative and quantitative identification of the source of organic matter in sediments, and offers theoretical basis for better management of rivers and lakes.

Keywords: Carbon and nitrogen; Isotopes; Qualitative and quantitative analysis; Sediments; Source and fate.

MeSH terms

  • Carbon / analysis*
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Eutrophication
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Lakes / chemistry*
  • Nitrogen / analysis*
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Organic Chemicals / analysis
  • Rivers / chemistry*
  • Sewage / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Quality / standards


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Sewage
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen