Integrating Discharge-Concentration Dynamics Across Carbon Forms in a Boreal Landscape

Gómez-Gener, Lluís; Hotchkiss, Erin R.; Laudon, Hjalmar; Sponseller, Ryan A. Water Resources Research 57 : e2020WR028806 (2021)  DIGITAL CSIC 

The flux of terrestrial carbon across land-water boundaries influences the overall carbon balance of landscapes and the ecology and biogeochemistry of aquatic ecosystems. The local consequences and broader fate of carbon delivered to streams is determined by the overall composition of carbon inputs, including the balance of organic and inorganic forms. Yet, our understanding of how hydrologic fluxes across different land-water interfaces regulate carbon supply remains poor. We used 7 years of data from three boreal catchments to test how different land-water interfaces (i.e., forest, wetland, and lake) modulate concentration-discharge (C-Q) relationships for dissolved organic carbon (DOC), carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane, as well as the balance among forms (e.g., DOC:CO2). Seasonal patterns in concentrations and C-Q relationships for individual carbon forms differed across catchments. DOC varied between chemostasis and transport limitation in the forest catchment, between supply limitation and chemostasis in the wetland catchment, and was persistently chemostatic in the lake outlet stream. Carbon gases were supply limited overall, but exhibited chemostasis or transport limitation in the forest and wetland catchments linked to elevated flow in summer and autumn. Unique C-Q relationships for individual forms reflected the properties of different interfaces and underpinned changes in the composition of lateral carbon supply. Accordingly, DOC dominated the carbon flux during snowmelt, whereas gas evasion increased in relative importance during other times of the year. Integrating the C-Q dynamics of individual carbon forms provides insight into the shifting composition of lateral export, and thus helps to predict how hydrologic changes may alter the fate of carbon supplied to streams.