Environmental Management

, Volume 53, Issue 5, pp 959–967 | Cite as

Spatial and Seasonal Variation of Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) Concentrations in Irish Streams: Importance of Soil and Topography Characteristics

  • Wen Liu
  • Xianli XuEmail author
  • Nicola M. McGoff
  • James M. Eaton
  • Paul Leahy
  • Nelius Foley
  • Gerard Kiely


Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations have increased in many sites in Europe and North America in recent decades. High DOC concentrations can damage the structure and functions of aquatic ecosystems by influencing water chemistry. This study investigated the spatial and seasonal variation of DOC concentrations in Irish streams across 55 sites at seven time occasions over 1 year (2006/2007). The DOC concentrations ranged from 0.9 to 25.9 mg/L with a mean value of 6.8 and a median value of 5.7 mg/L and varied significantly over the course of the year. The DOC concentrations from late winter (February: 5.2 ± 3.0 mg/L across 55 sites) and early spring (April: 4.5 ± 3.5 mg/L) had significantly lower DOC concentrations than autumn (October: mean 8.3 ± 5.6 mg/L) and early winter (December: 8.3 ± 5.1 mg/L). The DOC production sources (e.g., litterfall) or the accumulation of DOC over dry periods might be the driving factor of seasonal change in Irish stream DOC concentrations. Analysis of data using stepwise multiple linear regression techniques identified the topographic index (TI, an indication of saturation-excess runoff potential) and soil conditions (organic carbon content and soil drainage characteristics) as key factors in controlling DOC spatial variation in different seasons. The TI and soil carbon content (e.g., soil organic carbon; peat occurrence) are positively related to DOC concentrations, while well-drained soils are negatively related to DOC concentrations. The knowledge of spatial and seasonal variation of DOC concentrations in streams and their drivers are essential for optimum riverine water resources management.


DOC concentrations Riverine DOC Stream DOC Ireland Water quality 



Wen Liu was supported by the Construct Program of the Key Discipline in Hunan Province, China (No. 2011001), and Scientific Research Fund of Hunan Normal University (No. 41301). Xianli Xu was supported by “100 talents program” of Chinese Academy of Sciences (2060299, Y251101111, Y323025111). Gerard Kiely was supported by the Environmental ERTDI Programme 2000–2006 (Soil C: Measurement and Modelling of Soil Carbon Stocks and Stock Changes in Irish Soils; 2005-S-MS-26). We would like to acknowledge: George McHugh of the EPA for providing us with CORINE data, Met Éireann for providing us with synoptic station precipitation data and Phillip O’Brien of the EPA with whom we worked to develop land use classes. A special thanks to Ger Morgan, Xie Quishi and Stuart Warner of the Aquatic Services Unit at the UCC Environmental Research Institute for their assistance with collecting water samples and laboratory analyses. We would also like to thank Owen Carton and Deirdre Fay of Teagasc for their assistance. Thanks to the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

Supplementary material

267_2014_259_MOESM1_ESM.docx (82 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 81 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wen Liu
    • 1
  • Xianli Xu
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Nicola M. McGoff
    • 4
  • James M. Eaton
    • 4
  • Paul Leahy
    • 4
  • Nelius Foley
    • 4
  • Gerard Kiely
    • 4
  1. 1.College of Resources and Environmental SciencesHunan Normal UniversityChangshaChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory for Agro-Ecological Processes in Subtropical Region, Institute of Subtropical AgricultureChinese Academy of SciencesChangshaChina
  3. 3.Huanjiang Observation and Research Station for Karst EcosystemChinese Academy of SciencesHuanjiangChina
  4. 4.Centre for Hydrology, Micrometeorology and Climate Change, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Environmental Research InstituteUniversity College CorkCorkIreland

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