Biogenic organic matter (BOM) is of ubiquitous relevance in all aquatic systems. This is due to the fundamental function of the natural organic matter in combination with the microbial activity which guarantees the degradation in and the self purification of water in the hydrological cycle. In addition, the refractory part of the widely distributed BOM acts as effective adsorbent for most water constituents, and in case of mobile fractions as active vehicle for pollutants. In contrast to the broad importance of the occurrence and role of BOM, there is a fairly small variety for its analytical characterization. Especially in the field of in-situ measurements and of the determination in the original concentration range of aqueous samples, relatively little data have been collected. This is partly due to the complex structure of BOM, partly to the limited availability of analytical methods suited for that type of investigations.

The aim of the paper is to give typical examples for the a) physical/chemical, b) microbiological and c) technologically orientated methods of the analytical characterization of BOM in aqueous solution and to draw conclusions on the function of BOM in aquatic systems and their use for man.

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