Comparisons of wetland and drainage lake influences on stream dissolved carbon concentrations and yields in a north temperate lake-rich region
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- Lottig, N.R., Buffam, I. & Stanley, E.H. Aquat Sci (2013) 75: 619. doi:10.1007/s00027-013-0305-8
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Processes occurring at various scales interact to influence the export of organic carbon from watersheds to freshwater ecosystems and eventually the ocean. The goal of this study was to determine if and how differences in wetland extent and presence of lakes influenced dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and yields in streams. We monitored stream flow, DOC and dissolved inorganic carbon concentrations periodically for 2 years at four sites with forested watersheds, four sites with wetland watersheds, and four sites with wetland watersheds that also contained in-network lakes. As expected, the presence of wetlands resulted in higher DOC concentrations and yields, but the impact of lakes was less clear on the magnitude of DOC concentrations and yields. With respect to temporal dynamics, we found positive relationships between stream flow and DOC concentration (median r2 = 0.89) in streams without upstream lakes. The relationships for forested sites are among the strongest reported in the literature, and suggest a clear shift in hydrologic flowpath from intersecting mineral soils at low flow, to organic soils at high flow. In streams with upstream lakes, the relationship between flow and concentration was non-significant for three of four sites unless time lags with flow were applied to the concentration data, after which the relationship was similar to the non-lake streams (median r2 = 0.95). These findings suggest that lakes buffering temporal patterns in streams by hydrologically delaying pulses of carbon, but provide little support that in-line lakes have a net effect on carbon exports in this region.