Aquatic-terrestrial linkages control metabolism and carbon dynamics in a mid-sized, urban stream influenced by snowmelt

Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences
By: , and 



Freshwater streams can exchange nutrients and carbon with the surrounding terrestrial environment through various mechanisms including physical erosion, flooding, leaf drop, and snowmelt. These aquatic-terrestrial interactions are crucial in carbon mobilization, transformation, ecosystem productivity, and have important implications for the role of freshwater ecosystems in the global carbon budget. We utilized high-frequency oxygen, temperature, and carbon dioxide (CO2) data to infer watershed connectivity in Boulder Creek, a mid-sized (1160 km2) watershed located in Colorado, USA. Daily modeled gross primary production (GPP), ecosystem respiration (ER), net ecosystem production (NEP), and reaeration coefficients (K600) were paired with high-frequency, in-situ dissolved CO2 data to characterize changes in metabolic regime and carbon flux on a stream influenced by seasonal snowmelt. GPP and ER were correlated (ρ = −0.72, p ≪ 0.001) during the non-snowmelt period and NEP was frequently negative. Mean FCO2 during the non-snowmelt period was approximately 302 (±171) mmol C m−2 d−1 and was primarily supported by watershed CO2 inputs. During snowmelt, GPP and ER were not significantly correlated (ρ = −0.22, p = 0.05), and mean NEP was significantly more negative than during non-snowmelt. Watershed connectivity was higher during snowmelt, as evidenced by significantly higher FCO2 (843 ± 338 mmol C m−2 d−1) and greater allochthonous CO2 inputs than during non-snowmelt periods, emphasizing the effects of seasonal differences in aquatic-terrestrial linkages in this stream. We suggest that our understanding of watershed carbon budgets is subject to temporal dynamics which control the degree of connectivity between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Aquatic-terrestrial linkages control metabolism and carbon dynamics in a mid-sized, urban stream influenced by snowmelt
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences
DOI 10.1029/2021JG006296
Volume 126
Issue 9
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) WMA - Earth System Processes Division
Description e2021JG006296, 16 p.
Country United States
State Colorado
City Boulder
Other Geospatial Boulder Creek
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