Sources and biodegradability of dissolved organic matter in two headwater peatland catchments at the Marcell Experimental Forest, northern Minnesota, USA
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Where they are present in catchments, peatlands are a dominant source of dissolved organic matter (DOM) to surrounding waterways due, in part, to high production rates. Despite the preponderance of peatlands in northern latitudes and expected peatland vulnerability to climate change, little is known about peatland DOM degradation relative to a more comprehensive understanding of degradation when DOM is sourced from upland-dominated catchments. We compared DOM biodegradability of various sources of stream water in two catchments having peatlands (22%–33% of the area) surrounded by upland forests (70%–90% of the area, either deciduous or coniferous). We measured total organic carbon (TOC), and biodegradable dissolved organic carbon concentrations; bacterial respiration rates; streamflow; and upland runoff during and after snowmelt (March to June, 2009–2011). We also explored if DOM in upland runoff stimulated biodegradation of peatland-derived DOM (i.e., a priming effect), and if forest cover type affected DOM biodegradability. As expected, the peatlands were the largest sources of both water (72%–80%) and TOC (92%– 96%) to the streams although more area in each catchment was in uplands (70%– 90%). Several results were unexpected, yet revealing: (1) DOM from peatlands sometimes had the same biodegradability as DOM from uplands, (2) upland sources of DOM had negligible effects on biodegradability in the peatland and downstream, and (3) upland deciduous cover did not yield more degradable DOM than conifer cover. The most pronounced effect of upland runoff was dilution of downstream TOC concentrations when there was upland runoff. Overall, the effects of upland DOM may have been negligible due to the overriding effect of the large amount of biodegradable DOM that originated in bogs. This research highlights that peatland-sourced DOM has important effects on downstream DOM biodegradability even in catchments where upland area is substantially larger than peatland area.
Keywordsbog hydrology; dissolved organic matter; DOM biodegradability; DOM sources; northern peatlands; source areas in upland-peatland catchments; upland forest
Sebestyen, Stephen D.; Funke, Meghan; Cotner, James B. 2021. Sources and biodegradability of dissolved organic matter in two headwater peatland catchments at the Marcell Experimental Forest, northern Minnesota, USA . Hydrological Processes. 35(2): e14049. https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.14049.