Evidence for conservative transport of dissolved organic carbon in major river basins in the Gulf of Maine Watershed

Journal of Hydrology
By: , and 

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Abstract

Transport and fate of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in rivers are important aspects of the carbon cycle and the critical linkage between terrestrial, aquatic, and marine systems. Recent studies have quantified fluvial export to the marine environment in many systems, but in-stream losses of DOC are poorly constrained. This study compares DOC yields (kg C/ha) between the area-weighted averages of several tributaries within larger watersheds with the DOC yields of the larger watersheds to gain insight on in-stream losses in larger river systems. Four large watersheds, 22 tributaries to those watersheds, and 5 additional main stem locations in Maine were studied during 1 April to 15 November in 2011 through 2013. There were no significant differences in the area-weighted average DOC yield of the tributaries and the larger watersheds indicating little net in-stream loss in the main stems of the larger rivers. It is unlikely that inputs of DOC from un-gauged areas compensated for losses from gauged tributaries based on similarity in DOC yield longitudinally along the main stems of two of the rivers. In addition, wetland abundance, which is associated with higher DOC yield in this environment, did not consistently increase from tributaries to the larger watershed or longitudinally along the main stems. This geographic distribution of wetlands therefore also indicates that it is unlikely that inputs of DOC from un-gauged areas compensated for losses from gauged tributaries. These findings suggest that in-stream losses of DOC in these larger river systems are minimal and that the vast majority of DOC in major rivers in Maine is transported conservatively to the coastal ocean.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Evidence for conservative transport of dissolved organic carbon in major river basins in the Gulf of Maine Watershed
Series title Journal of Hydrology
DOI 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2019.03.076
Volume 573
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) New England Water Science Center
Description 13 p.
First page 755
Last page 767
Country United States
State Maine
Other Geospatial Gulf of Maine