In five tributary streams (four inflowing and one outflowing) of 1600-ha Trout Lake in northern Wisconsin, USA, we examined factors that can affect the magnitude of stream flow and transport of dissolved organic and inorganic carbon (DOC and DIC) through the streams to the lake. One catchment, the Allequash Creek basin, was investigated in more detail to describe the dynamics of carbon flow and to identify potential carbon sources. Stream flows and carbon loads showed little or no relation to surface-water catchment area. They were more closely related to ground-water watershed area because ground-water discharge, from both local and regional sources, is a major contributor to the hydrologic budgets of these catchments. An important factor in determining carbon influx to the stream is the area of peatland in the catchment. Peatland porewaters contain DOC concentrations up to 40 mg l-1 and are a significant potential carbon source. Ground-water discharge and lateral flow through peat are the suspected mechanisms for transport of that carbon to the streams. Carbon and nitrogen isotopes suggested that the sources of DOC in Allequash Creek above Allequash Lake were wetland vegetation and peat and that the sources below Allequash Lake were filamentous algae and wild rice. Catchments with high proportions of peatland, including the Allequash Creek catchment, tended to have elevated DOC loads in outflowing stream water. Respiration and carbon mineralization in lakes within the system tend to produce low DOC and low DOC/DIC in lake outflows, especially at Trout Lake. In Allequash Lake, however, the shallow peat island and vegetation-filled west end were sources of DOC. Despite the vast carbon reservoir in the peatlands, carbon yields were very low in these catchments. Maximum yields were on the order of 2.5 g m-2 y-1 DOC and 5.5 g m-2 y-1 DIC. The small yields were attributable to low stream flows due to lack of significant overland runoff and very limited stream channel coverage of the total catchment area.
Additional publication details
Sources and yields of dissolved carbon in northern Wisconsin stream catchments with differing amounts of Peatland