, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 239-251

Effects of the Dry–Wet Hydrological Shift on Dissolved Organic Carbon Dynamics and Fate Across Stream–Riparian Interface in a Mediterranean Catchment

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Abstract

The stream–riparian interface, characterized by a dynamic and complex hydrology, is an important control point for nutrient fluxes and processing between terrestrial and aquatic systems. Predicted alterations in the discharge regime in Mediterranean climate regions make it necessary to understand the effects of abrupt hydrological transition between dry and wet conditions on the transport and fate of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) across the stream–riparian interface. In this study, the concentrations and fate of total DOC (TDOC) and a subset of four molecular weight fractions (<1 kDa, 1–10 kDa, 10–100 kDa, >100 kDa) were investigated in stream water and riparian groundwater during autumn of 2003 and 2004. The two study periods were characterized by contrasting antecedent hydrological conditions: the streamflow was interrupted in summer 2003 but was permanent in summer 2004. Comparison of the two study periods indicates that an abrupt dry–wet hydrological transition amplifies the water exchange across the stream–riparian interface and favors retention of up to 57% of the TDOC that flows across the interface. Furthermore, the efficiency of DOC retention across the stream-riparian interface also varies greatly depending on DOC molecular size. More than 70% of DOC fractions higher than 10 kDa were retained, whereas the smaller fraction (less than 1 kDa) was nearly conserved. Consequently, our study helps to clarify the effects of extreme hydrological events on DOC transport in running waters in Mediterranean regions.