Effects of climate-related variability in storage on streamwater solute concentrations and fluxes in a small forested watershed in the Southeastern United States

Hydrological Processes
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Abstract

Streamwater quality can be affected by climate-related variability in hydrologic state, which controls flow paths and affects biogeochemical processes. Thirty-one years of input/output solute fluxes at Panola Mountain Research Watershed, a small, forested, seasonally water-limited watershed near Atlanta, Georgia, were used to quantify the effects of climatic-related variability in storage on streamwater solute concentrations and fluxes. Streamwater fluxes were estimated for ten solutes from weekly and event sample concentrations using regression-based methods. The most pertinent storage attribute (current or antecedent watershed, shallow, and deep storage) for each solute was determined by fitting separate concentration relationships. The concentration-discharge relationships varied more for reactive solutes such as potassium, sulfate, and DOC and less for weathering products (base cations and dissolved silica) and conservative chloride. Many solutes exhibited higher concentrations when storage levels were lower or wetting up, which was likely the result of the concentrating effects of evapotranspiration and/or the buildup and flushing of weathering products associated with longer residence times. The impacts of storage modeling on annual fluxes varied by solute, ranging from about 5% (magnesium) to 52% (nitrate) as relative standard deviations, and sufficiently removed climate-related patterns observed in streamwater concentrations. Sulfate was particularly mobilized following growing season droughts but only if deep storage was sufficiently recharged, possibly indicating that sulfides in the deep storage pool were oxidized to sulfate during droughts and mobilized when re-wetted. The lack of streamwater sulfate response to 61% declines in atmospheric deposition indicates the importance of watershed biogeochemical processes on controls of streamwater export of sulfate. The approach of explicitly incorporating storage in the streamwater concentration modeling elucidated the effects of climate on streamwater water-quality and may provide insight into the effects of climatic change on future fluxes.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Effects of climate-related variability in storage on streamwater solute concentrations and fluxes in a small forested watershed in the Southeastern United States
Series title Hydrological Processes
DOI 10.1002/hyp.13589
Volume 34
Issue 2
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) South Atlantic Water Science Center
Description 20 p.
First page 189
Last page 208
Country United States
State Georgia
Other Geospatial Panola Mountain Research Watershed
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