A comparative structural study of nitrogen-rich fulvic acids from various Antarctic lakes

Sahar Farzadnia*, Rama D. Nimmagadda, Christopher McRae

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    We comprehensively examined fulvic acids isolated from three lakes in Vestfold Hills, eastern Antarctica and microbial reference fulvic acid from Pony Lake located in western Antarctica. These fulvic acids were compared in terms of their structural similarities and differences by means of elemental analysis, cross polarisation magic-angle spinning (CP-MAS) 13C NMR spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) thermochemolysis coupled to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The results indicate that these Antarctic fulvic acids show notable differences in chemical composition and structure; in particular XPS demonstrates that the distribution of nitrogen-containing compounds in the nitrogen-rich Antarctic fulvic acids differ significantly from each other. The dissimilarities are also highlighted in terms of quantity and quality of their nitrogenous constituents. For instance, Organic Lake Fulvic Acid (OLFA) contains around 10 times lower amide groups (pyrimidine-peptide N) than Pendant Lake Fulvic Acid (PNFA). It also shows 1.5 times less quaternary amine than Mossel Lake Fulvic Acid (MLFA) and PNFA. According to CP-MAS 13C NMR experiments the carbohydrate content in Vestfold Hills fulvic acid is higher than that of Pony Lake Fulvic Acid (PLFA), suggesting that dissolved organic matter (DOM) from Vestfold Hills Lakes is immature. TMAH-GC-MS demonstrated that Antarctic fulvic acids are enriched in heterocyclic non-aromatic nitrogen-containing components such as pyrimidine structures, with the exception of OLFA. Furthermore, tricyclic terpenoids (dehydroabietic acid) were detected in two out of four fulvic acids tabulated using TMAH-GC-MS. Although diterpenes are commonly associated with plants and fungi, their occurrence in Antarctic fulvic acids could be justified due to their diverse origins from cyanobacteria to aerosols.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)502-514
    Number of pages13
    JournalEnvironmental Chemistry
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    Dive into the research topics of 'A comparative structural study of nitrogen-rich fulvic acids from various Antarctic lakes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this