, Volume 113, Issue 1-3, pp 525-544
Date: 30 Aug 2012

Watershed land use alters riverine silica cycling

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Abstract

Recent research has highlighted that humans are perturbing the global silica (Si) cycle through land use change. Here we compare in-stream Si biogeochemistry across four rivers that lie along a gradient of land use change in New England, USA. Differences between basins were most notable during the late winter/early spring period when dissolved Si (DSi) concentrations declined significantly in all but the most urban site. Declines in DSi concentration could not be attributed to volumetric dilution by higher discharges, nor in-stream phytoplankton growth, as biogenic Si concentrations did not increase during this period. We provide evidence that uptake of Si by terrestrial vegetation, specifically trees, is responsible for the observed declines of in-stream DSi concentrations (a loss of 2.7 μM day−1 at the most forested site). We hypothesize that sap flow during this late winter/early spring period is driving this accretion. We estimate that 68 kmol Si km−2 is accreted annually by New England forests, falling well within the range of forest Si accretion rates found in published studies. This analysis increases our understanding of the mechanisms contributing to altered Si biogeochemistry in rivers draining watersheds with different land use.