Dissolved organic matter dynamics during the spring snowmelt at a boreal river valley mire complex in Northwest Russia

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Abstract

Boreal mire landscapes are rich in soil carbon and significantly contribute to the carbon input of aquatic ecosystems. They are composed of different mesoscale ecohydrological subunits, whose individual contributions to the water and carbon export of mire catchments are not well understood. The spring snowmelt period is the major hydrological event in the annual water cycle of the boreal regions and strongly influences the carbon flux between the terrestrial and aquatic systems. The aim of this study was (1) to provide a conceptual understanding of the spatial and temporal dynamics of the surface water chemistry along a swamp forest-fen-bog gradient during the snowmelt period, (2) to quantify the exported dissolved organic carbon (DOC) content in the runoff and (3) to identify the ecohydrological landscape unit that contributes most to DOC export during the snowmelt period in a heterogeneous mire complex in Northwest Russia. The highest DOC concentrations were detected in the swamp forest, and the lowest concentrations were observed at the treeless bog by the end of the snowmelt period (swamp forest: 37–43 mg l−1, bog: 13–17 mg l−1). During the spring snowmelt period, a significant amount (˜1.7 g C m−2) of DOC was transferred by the ˜74 mm of runoff from the catchment into the river. Variability in the thawing periods led to differences in the relative contributions of each ecohydrological zone to the carbon export measured at a stream channel draining the studied part of the mire complex. An increased understanding of the variation in DOC concentrations and contributions from the mesoscale ecohydrological subunits to carbon export can help to predict the potential regional loss of DOC based on land cover type under climate change. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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