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Isotope mass spectrometer

Organic Trace Substances

The Organic Trace Substances group investigates the behaviour of organic substances in the marine environment. We study primarily persistent compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), various pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), LHKW’s and polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs). Our work concentrates on two foci of the IOW science mission: FS1 (Transport and transformation processes in the sea) and FS2 (Marine communities and mattern cycles). To facilitate the comprehensive investigation of those complex problems, a battery of methods is employed that includes extensive environmental sampling, controlled laboratory experiments and methods development.

The study of processes that have a deciding influence on the fate of organic trace substances in the oceans is one important component of our work. Currently we are looking at contaminant partitioning between the dissolved, colloidal, and solid phases, air/sea gas exchance, and the vertical and lateral transport of particles.

Our sampling and analytical techniques build the foundation of our studies of the marine environment and monitoring activities of the Baltic Sea. We are continually working on the development of more reliable, more informative and more effective analytical methods and measuring devises. In addition to expanding our analytical portfolio to include further substance classes, we are currently exploring the use of different passive samplers for determining organic trace substances levels in seawater and developing "intelligent" sampling devices based on in-situ pump technology.

Erhardt-extractors in the Clean lab
Rotary evaprorator

Natural organic matter

Natural organic compounds are a significant component in the biogeochemical cycle. By the process of primary production, organic material is synthesized, consuming CO2, inorganic nutrients and trace metals and using solar radiation as energy source. At the same time organic material is degraded - mainly by microbial processes - consuming oxygen and release CO2 and inorganic compounds. In addition, organic matter plays an important role in complexing trace metals and organic contaminants, which may influence their physicochemical behaviour as well as their biological availability. In addition to organic compounds which are formed in the marine environment, seawater contains organic matter of terrestrial origin.


  • quantification of carbon and nitrogen bound in organic matter (POC, PON, DOC, DON)
  • characterisation of different classes of organic compounds
  • improvement and development of analytical methods to analyse organic compounds



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