HYDROLOGIC DYNAMICS CONTROL DISSOLVED ORGANIC MATTER EXPORT FROM WATERSHEDS: FIELD-SCALE PROCESSES IN A SMALL, ARTIFICIALLY DRAINED AGRICULTURAL CATCHMENT, AND PATTERNS ACROSS ECOSYSTEMS
Bellmore, Rebecca Anne
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Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is an important component of nutrient cycling and energy transfer within and between ecosystems. Understanding controls over the magnitude and quality of DOM that is transferred from soils to surface water is needed to better characterize the terrestrial-aquatic carbon flux and effects of terrestrial DOM on downstream ecosystems. A meta-analysis of the response of in-stream dissolved organic nitrogen concentration (DON) to high flow events indicates that DON typically increases with flow across a wide range of ecosystem types, likely as novel DOM sources in the landscape are mobilized and transported to streams and rivers. Mechanisms controlling DOM export, including dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and DON concentrations and the quality of DOM, were examined in a small agricultural catchment in eastern Washington State. In the soil column, DOC concentration declined and source of DOM shifted from humic-like and plant-derived to microbially-derived with depth through the profile. Across seasons and years, DOM exported via drain discharge during low flows resembled that found deep in the soil profile, and DOM exported during high flows suggests topsoil and litter sources contribute to export. A simple mixing model suggests that litter leachate can contribute over 50% of DOM during peak flow. Based on modeled contributions of litter, topsoil and subsoil DOM during storm events, DOC concentration is over-predicted, except for peak flows, suggesting removal via sorption and/or microbial decomposition in the soil column control DOC export on the timescale of events. Although the character of exported DOM shifts with flow conditions, laboratory incubations suggest bioavailability to the stream sediment microbial community is consistently low, with a maximum of 7% loss over 6 days, indicating exported DOM is likely transported beyond the immediate stream reach. An analysis of anticipated effects of climate change on the flow regime in the catchment projects the wettest years to become more variable, with non-linear effects on the magnitude of DOC export. Finally I explore how climate change assessments can be incorporated into nonpoint source nutrient management plans, despite current uncertainty about the magnitude and timeframe of climate effects on nutrient loading.