This study applied parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC) to fluorescence excitation–emission matrices (EEMs) of natural water samples in a freshly submerged catchment in the upper reach of Three Gorges Dam (China). Two fluorescent natural dissolved organic matter (NDOM) components (humic/fulvic-like) were uncovered and were positively correlated with selected water quality parameters, i.e. dissolved oxygen concentration, dissolved organic carbon concentration, dissolved Kjeldahl nitrogen concentration and total (dissolved plus particulate) phosphorus concentration, respectively. To other water quality parameters (i.e. total nitrogen, particulate nitrogen, particulate phosphorus, dissolved phosphorus, dissolved nitrate, pH, and chemical oxygen demand), either the two components did not show any correlation or only one component showed correlation. In particular, particulate N correlated significantly to the fulvic acid, but not to the humic acid. Meanwhile, two conventional spectroscopic indices i.e. specific UV absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA254) and fluorescence index (FI) indicated that the whole NDOM in the waters were low in aromaticity and predominantly derived from aquatic microbial processes. Given together, it concludes that N and P did not function equally in the NDOM production, and the two components were not derived from the same microbial processes. The EEMs-PARAFAC has proven to be of potential as an effective tool in investigation of the interlink between NDOM and nutrients which may be utilized as an indicator of water environment.
Keywords: EEMs, natural dissolved organic matter, parallel factor analysis, Three Gorges Dam