Microbial Ecology

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 501–512 | Cite as

Microbial Availability and Size Fractionation of Dissolved Organic Carbon After Drought in an Intermittent Stream: Biogeochemical Link Across the Stream–Riparian Interface

  • Anna M. RomaníEmail author
  • Eusebi Vázquez
  • Andrea Butturini


The evolution of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) molecular-weight fractions, DOC biodegradability (BDOC), DOC origin [fluorescence index (FI)], and enzyme activities between the stream waters (main and ephemeral channel) and ground waters (riparian and hillslope) were analyzed during the transition from drought to precipitation in a forested Mediterranean stream. After the first rains, DOC content in stream water reached its maximum value (10–18 mg L−1), being explained by the leaching of deciduous leaves accumulated on the stream bed during drought. During this period, the largest molecules (>10 kDa), were the most biodegradable, as indicated by high BDOC values measured during storm events and high enzymatic activities (especially for leucine-aminopeptidase). DOC >100 kDa was strongly immobilized (78%) at the stream–riparian interface, whereas the smallest molecules (<1 kDa) were highly mobile and accumulated in ground waters, indicating their greater recalcitrance. Differential enzymatic patterns between compartments showed a fast utilization of polysaccharides in the flowing water but a major protein utilization in the ground water. The results of the FI indicated a more terrestrial origin of the larger molecules in the flowing water, also suggesting that transformation of material occurs through the stream–riparian interface. Microbial immobilization and fast utilization of the most biodegradable fraction at the stream–riparian interface is suggested as a relevant DOC retention mechanism just after initial recharging of the ground water compartment. Large and rapid DOC inputs entering the intermittent river system during the transition from drought to precipitation provide available N and C sources for the heterotrophs. Heterotrophs efficiently utilize these resources that were in limited supply during the period of drought. Such changes in C cycling may highlight possible changes in organic matter dynamics under the prediction of extended drying periods in aquatic ecosystems.


Stream Water Dissolve Organic Carbon Concentration Fluorescence Index Total Dissolve Organic Carbon Biodegradable Dissolve Organic Carbon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was funded by projects CICYT REN2002-04442-C02-02/GLO and CGL2004-04050/HID from the Spanish Science Ministry. We thank anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions on the manuscript. Thanks to David Balayla for revision of the English manuscript.


  1. 1.
    Acuña, V, Muñoz, I, Giorgi, A, Omella, M, Sabater, F, Sabater, S (2005) Drought and post-drought recovery cycles in an intermittent Mediterranean stream: structural and functional aspects. J N Am Benthol Soc 24: 919–933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Acuña, V, Giorgi, A, Muñoz, I, Uehlinger, U, Sabater, S (2004) Flow extremes and benthic organic matter shape the metabolism of a headwater Mediterranean stream. Freshw Biol 49: 960–971CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Amon, RMW, Benner, R (1996) Bacterial utilization of different size classes of dissolved organic matter. Limnol Oceanogr 41: 41–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bernal, S, Butturini, A, Sabater, F (2002) Variability of DOC and nitrate responses to storms in a small Mediterranean forested catchment. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 6: 1031–1041Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bernal, S, Butturini, A, Sabater, F (2005) Seasonal variations of dissolved nitrogen and DOC:DON ratios in an intermittent Mediterranean stream. Biogeochemistry 75: 351–372Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bonin, HL, Griffiths, RP, Caldwell, BA (2000) Nutrient and microbiological characteristics of fine benthic organic matter in mountain streams. J N Am Benthol Soc 19: 235–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Burns, A, Ryder, DS (2001) Response of bacterial extracellular enzymes to inundation of floodplain sediments. Freshw Biol 46: 1299–1307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Butturini, A, Bernal, S, Nin, E, Hellin, C, Rivero, L, Sabater, S, Sabater, F (2003) Influences of the stream groundwater hydrology on nitrate concentration in unsaturated riparian area bounded by an intermittent Mediterranean stream. Water Resour Res 39: 1110,  doi:10.1029/2001WR001260
  9. 9.
    Butturini, A, Bernal, S, Sabater, F (2005) Modeling storm events to investigate the influence of the stream–catchment interface zone on stream biogeochemistry. Water Resour Res 41: 8418Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Chróst, RJ (1991) Environmental control of the synthesis and activity of aquatic microbial ectoenzymes. In: Chrost, RJ (Ed.) Microbial Enzymes in Aquatic Environments. Brock/Springer Verlag, New York, pp 29–59Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Dahm, CN, Grimm, NB, Marmonier, P, Valett, HM, Vervier, P (1998) Nutrient dynamics at the interface between surface waters and groundwaters. Freshw Biol 40: 427–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Dahm, CN, Baker, MA, Moore, DI, Thibault, JR (2003) Coupled biogeochemical and hydrological responses of streams and rivers to drought. Freshw Biol 48: 1219–1231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Fiebig, DM, Marxsen, J (1992) Immobilization and mineralization of dissolved free amino acids by stream-bed biofilms. Freshw Biol 28: 129–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Findlay, S, Strayer, D, Goumbala, C, Gould, K (1993) Metabolism of stream water dissolved organic carbon in the shallow hyporheic zone. Limnol Oceanogr 38: 1493–1499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Findlay, SE, Sinsabaugh, RL, Sobczak, WV, Hoostal, M (2003) Metabolic response of hyporheic microbial communities to variations in supply of dissolved organic matter. Limnol Oceanogr 48: 1608–1617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Fischer, H, Sachse, A, Steinbeg, CEW, Pusch, M (2002) Differential retention of dissolved organic carbon by bacteria in river sediments. Limnol Oceanogr 47: 1702–1711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Gordon, ND, McMahon, TA, Finlayson, BL (1992) Stream Hydrology. An Introduction for Ecologists. Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, USAGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Gucker, B, Boechat, IG (2004) Stream morphology controls ammonium retention in tropical headwaters. Ecology 10: 2818–2827Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Gremm, TJ, Kaplan, LA (1998) Dissolved carbohydrate concentration, composition, and bioavailability to microbial heterotrophs in stream water. Acta Hydrochim Hydrobiol 26: 167–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Harvey, HR, Mannino, A (2001) The chemical composition and cycling of particulate and macromolecular dissolved organic matter in temperate estuaries as revealed by molecular organic tracers. Org Geochem 32: 527–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Hongve, D, VanHees, PAW, Lundström, US (2000) Dissolved components in precipitation water percolated through forest litter. Eur J Soil Sci 51: 667–677CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Hooper, RP (2003) Diagnostic tools for mixing models of stream water chemistry. Water Resour Res 39: 1055,  doi:10.1029/2002WR001528, 2003
  23. 23.
    Humphries, P, Baldwin, DS (2003) Drought and aquatic ecosystems: an introduction. Freshw Biol 48: 1141–1146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Kaiser, E, Sulzberger, B (2004) Phototransformation of riverine dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the presence of abundant iron: effect on DOM bioavailability. Limnol Ocenanogr 49: 540–554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Karrasch, B, Bormki, G, Herzsprung, P, Winkler, M, Baborowski, M (2003) Extracellular enzyme activity in the river Elbe during a spring flood event. Acta Hydrochim Hydrobiol 31: 307–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Ladd, TI, Ventullo, RM, Wallis, PM, Costerton, JW (1982) Heterotrophic activity and biodegradation of labile and refractory compounds by groundwater and stream microbial populations. Appl Environ Microbiol 44: 321–329PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lake, PS (2003) Ecological effects of perturbation by drought in flowing waters. Freshwat Biol 48: 1161–1172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Marmonier, P, Fontvieille, D, Gibert, J, Vanek, V (1995) Distribution of dissolved organic carbon and bacteria at the interface between the Rhone River and its alluvial aquifer. J N Am Benthol Soc 14: 382–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    McArthur, MD, Richardson, JS (2002) Microbial utilization of dissolved organic carbon leached from riparian litterfall. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 59: 1668–1676CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    McKnight, DM, Boyer, EW, Westerhoff, PK, Doran, PT, Kulbe, T, Andersen, DT (2001) Spectrofluorometric characterization of dissolved organic matter for indication of precursor organic material and aromaticity. Limnol Oceanogr 46: 38–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Meyer, JL, Edwards, RT, Risley, R (1987) Bacterial growth on dissolved organic carbon from a blackwater river. Microb Ecol 13: 13–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Mulholland, PJ (2003) Large-scale patterns in dissolved organic carbon concentration, flux and sources. In: Findlay, SE, Sinsabaugh, RL (Eds.) Aquatic Ecosystems, Interactivity of Dissolved Organic Matter. Academic Press, Elsevier, San Diego, pp 139–159Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Münster, U, DeHaan, H (1998) The role of microbial extracellular enzymes in the transformation of dissolved organic matter in humic waters. In: Hessen, DO, Tranvik, LJ (Eds.) Aquatic Humic Substances, Ecological Studies, vol. 133. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp 199–257Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Romaní, AM (2000) Characterization of extracellular enzyme kinetics in two Mediterranean streams. Arch Hydrobiol 148: 99–117Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Romano, J, Krol, J (1993) Capillary ion electrophoresis, an environmental method for the determination of anions in waters. J Chromatogr 640: 403–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Sabater, F, Meyer, JL, Edwards, RT (1993) Longitudinal patterns of dissolved organic carbon concentration and suspended bacterial density along a blackwater river. Biogeochemistry 21: 73–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Sabater, S, Bernal, S, Butturini, A, Nin, E, Sabater, F (2001) Wood and leaf debris input in a Mediterranean stream: the influence of riparian vegetation. Arch Hydrobiol 153: 91–102Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Sachse, A, Henrion, R, Gelbrecht, J, Steinberg, CEW (2005) Classification of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in river-systems: influence of catchment and internal processes. Org Geochem 36: 923–935CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Scalon, TM, Raffensperger, JP, Hornberger, GM (2001) Modeling transport of dissolved silica in a forested headwater catchment: implications for defining the hydrochemical response of observed flow pathways. Water Resour Res 37: 1071–1082CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Servais, P, Anzil, A, Ventresque, C (1989) Simple method for determination of biodegradable dissolved organic carbon in water. Appl Environ Microbiol 55: 2732–2734PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Sobczak, WV, Hedin, LO, Klug, MJ (1998) Relationships between bacterial productivity and organic carbon at soil–stream interface. Hydrobiologia 386: 45–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Sobczak, WV, Findlay, S (2002) Variation in bioavailability of dissolved organic carbon among stream hyporheic flowpaths. Ecology 83: 3194–3209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Thurmann, EM (1985) Organic Geochemistry of Natural Waters. Martinus Nijhoff/Dr. W. Junk, Dordrecht, the NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Volk, CJ, Volk, CB, Kaplan, LA (1997) Chemical composition of biodegradable dissolved organic matter in streamwater. Limnol Oceanogr 42: 39–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Wolfe, AP, Kaushal, SS, Fulton, JR, McKnight, DM (2002) Spectrofluorescence of sediment humic substances and historical changes of lacustrine organic matter provenance in response to atmospheric nutrient enrichment. Environ Sci Technol 36: 3217–3223PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna M. Romaní
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eusebi Vázquez
    • 2
  • Andrea Butturini
    • 3
  1. 1.Institut d'Ecologia AquàticaUniversitat de GironaGironaSpain
  2. 2.Departament d'EcologiaUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Centre d'Estudis Avançats de Blanes, CSICBlanesSpain

Personalised recommendations