, Volume 14, Issue 7, pp 1110–1122 | Cite as

Effects of Watershed History on Dissolved Organic Matter Characteristics in Headwater Streams

  • Youhei Yamashita
  • Brian D. Kloeppel
  • Jennifer Knoepp
  • Gregory L. Zausen
  • Rudolf JafféEmail author


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is recognized as a major component in the global carbon cycle and is an important driver in aquatic ecosystem function. Climate, land use, and forest cover changes all impact stream DOM and alter biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial environments. We determined the temporal variation in DOM quantity and quality in headwater streams at a reference watershed (REF), a watershed clear-cut 30 years ago (CC), and a watershed converted to a white pine plantation 50 years ago (WP) at the US Forest Service, Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, in the Nantahala Mountains of western North Carolina, USA. Average stream dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations in CC or WP were 60 and 80% of those in REF, respectively. Stream DOM composition showed that the difference was mainly due to changes in humic-like components in chromophoric DOM. In addition, excitation–emission matrix fluorescence data with parallel factor analysis indicate that although the concentration of protein-like components did not differ significantly among watersheds, their relative abundance showed an enrichment in CC and WP compared to REF. The ratio of humic acid-type to fulvic acid-type components was highest and lowest at REF and WP, respectively. Our data suggest that forest ecosystem disturbance history affects the DOM quantity and quality in headwater streams over decades as a result of changes in watershed soil organic matter characteristics due to differences in organic matter inputs.

Key words

headwater streams dissolved organic carbon (DOC) chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC) watershed disturbance Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory 



The authors thank the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory for logistical support for this research and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions that helped improve the quality of this manuscript. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation both through the Coweeta LTER project (grants DEB-9632854 and DEB-0218001) and the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER project (grant DBI-0620409). YY thanks the College of Arts and Science at Florida International University for financial support. This is SERC contribution #528.


  1. Aiken GR, McKnight DM, Wershaw RL, MacCarthy P, Eds. 1985. Humic substances in soil, sediment, and water. New York: Johnson Willy and Sons.Google Scholar
  2. Balcarczyk K, Jones JB, Jaffé R, Maie N. 2009. Stream dissolved organic matter bioavailability and composition in watersheds underlain with discontinuous permafrost. Biogeochemistry 94:255–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Battin TJ, Luyssaert S, Kaplan LA, Aufdenkampe AK, Richter A, Tranvik LJ. 2009. The boundless carbon cycle. Nat Geosci 2:598–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brookshire EN, Valett HM, Thomas SA, Webster JR. 2005. Coupled cycling of dissolved organic nitrogen and carbon in a forest stream. Ecology 56:2487–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Coble PG. 2007. Marine optical biogeochemistry: the chemistry of ocean color. Chem Rev 107:402–18.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cole JJ, Prairie YT, Caraco NF, McDowell WH, Tranvik LJ, Striegl RG, Duarte CM, Kortelainen P, Downing JA, Middelburg JJ, Melack J. 2007. Plumbing the global carbon cycle: integrating inland waters into the terrestrial carbon budget. Ecosystems 10:171–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cory RM, McKnight DM. 2005. Fluorescence spectroscopy reveals ubiquitous presence of oxidized and reduced quinones in dissolved organic matter. Environ Sci Technol 39:8142–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cory RM, McKnight DM, Chin YP, Miller P, Jaros CL. 2007. Chemical characteristics of fulvic acids from Arctic surface waters: microbial contributions and photochemical transformations. J Geophys Res 112:G04S51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cromack Jr K, Monk CD. 1975. Litter production, decomposition, and nutrient cycling in a mixed hardwood watershed and a white pine watershed. In: Howell FG, Gentry JB, Smith MH, Eds. Proceedings of mineral cycling in southeastern ecosystems. Energy Research and Development Administration Symposium Series. Springfield, VA: National Technical Information Service.Google Scholar
  10. Davis J, Benner R. 2007. Quantitative estimates of labile and semi-labile dissolved organic carbon in the western Arctic Ocean: a molecular approach. Limnol Oceanogr 52:2434–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elliott KJ, Boring LR, Swank WT. 2002. Aboveground biomass and nutrient accumulation 20 years after clear-cutting a southern Appalachian watershed. Can J For Res 32:667–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fellman JB, D’Amore DV, Hood E, Boone RD. 2008. Fluorescence characteristics and biodegradability of dissolved organic matter in forest and wetland soils from coastal temperate watersheds in southern Alaska. Biogeochemistry 88:169–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fellman JB, Hood E, Edwards RT, Jones JB. 2009. Uptake of allochthonous dissolved organic matter from soil and salmon in coastal temperate rainforest streams. Ecosystems 12:747–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Freeman C, Fenner N, Ostle NJ, Kang H, Dowrick DJ, Reynolds B, Lock MA, Sleep D, Hughes S, Hudson J. 2004. Export of dissolved organic carbon from peatlands under elevated carbon dioxide levels. Nature 430:195–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Frost PC, Larson JH, Johnston CA, Young KC, Maurice PA, Lamberti GA, Bridgham SD. 2006. Landscape predictors of stream dissolved organic matter concentration and physicochemistry in a Lake Superior river watershed. Aquat Sci 68:40–51.Google Scholar
  16. Gergel SE, Turner MG, Kratz TK. 1999. Dissolved organic carbon as an indicator of the scale of watershed influence on lakes and rivers. Ecol Appl 9:1377–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Guillemette F, del Giorgio PA. 2011. Reconstructing the various facets of dissolved organic carbon bioavailability in freshwater ecosystems. Limnol Oceanogr 56:734–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hobbie JE, Likens GE. 1973. Output of phosphorus, dissolved organic carbon, and fine particulate carbon from Hubbard Brook watersheds. Limnol Oceanogr 18:734–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hongve D. 1999. Production of dissolved organic carbon in forested catchments. J Hydrol 224:91–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hood E, Scott D. 2008. Riverine organic matter and nutrients in southeast Alaska affected by glacial coverage. Nat Geosci 1:583–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hood E, Gooseff MN, Johnson SL. 2006. Changes in the character of stream water dissolved organic carbon during flushing in three small watersheds, Oregon. J Geophys Res 111:G01007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jaffé R, Boyer JN, Lu X, Maie N, Yang C, Scully NM, Mock S. 2004. Source characterization of dissolved organic matter in a subtropical mangrove-dominated estuary by fluorescence analysis. Mar Chem 84:195–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jaffé R, McKnight DM, Maie N, Cory RM, McDowell WH, Campbell JL. 2008. Spatial and temporal variations of DOM composition in ecosystems: the importance of long-term monitoring of optical properties. J Geophys Res 113:G04032.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Johnson CE, Driscoll CT, Fahey TJ, Siccama TG. 1995. Carbon dynamics following clear-cutting of a northern hardwood forest. In McFee WW, Kelly JM, Eds. Carbon forms and functions in forest soils. Proceedings of the 8th North American Forest Soils Conference, Gainesville, FL, 1993. Madison, WI: Soil Science Society of America. pp 463–88.Google Scholar
  25. Kaiser K, Guggenberger G, Haumaier L, Zech W. 2001. Seasonal variations in the chemical composition of dissolved organic matter in organic forest floor layer leachates of old-growth Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) stands in northeastern Bavaria, Germany. Biogeochemistry 55:103–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kalbitz K, Meyer A, Yang R, Gerstberger P. 2007. Response of dissolved organic matter in the forest floor to long-term manipulation of litter and throughfall inputs. Biogeochemistry 86:301–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Knoepp JD, Swank WT. 1997. Forest management effects on surface soil carbon and nitrogen. Soil Sci Soc Am J 61:928–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Knoepp JD, Reynolds BC, Crossley DA, Swank WT. 2005. Long-term changes in forest floor processes in southern Appalachian forests. For Ecol Manag 220:300–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maie N, Parish KJ, Watanabe A, Knicker H, Benner R, Abe T, Kaiser K, Jaffé R. 2006a. Chemical characteristics of dissolved organic nitrogen in an oligotrophic subtropical coastal ecosystem. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 70:4491–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Maie N, Jaffé R, Miyoshi T, Childers DL. 2006b. Quantitative and qualitative aspects of dissolved organic carbon leached from senescent plants in an oligotrophic wetland. Biogeochemistry 78:285–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McGlynn BL, McDonnell JL. 2003. Role of discrete landscape units in controlling catchment dissolved organic carbon dynamics. Water Resour Res 39:1090.Google Scholar
  32. McKnight DM, Boyer EW, Westerhoff PK, Doran PT, Kulbe T, Anderson DT. 2001. Spectrofluorometric characterization of dissolved organic matter for indication of precursor organic material and aromaticity. Limnol Oceanogr 46:38–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Meyer JL, Tate CM. 1983. The effects of watershed disturbance on dissolved organic carbon dynamics of a stream. Ecology 64:33–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Meyer JL, Wallace JB, Eggert SL. 1998. Leaf litter as a source of dissolved organic carbon in streams. Ecosystems 1:240–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mobed JJ, Hemmingsen SL, Autry JL, McGown LB. 1996. Fluorescence characterization of IHSS humic substances: total luminescence spectra with absorbance correction. Environ Sci Technol 30:3061–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Monteith DT, Stoddard JL, Evans CD, de Wit HA, Forsius M, Høgåsen T, Wilander A, Skjelkvåle BL, Jeffries DS, Vuorenmaa J, Keller B, Kopácek J, Vesely J. 2007. Dissolved organic carbon trends resulting from changes in atmospheric deposition chemistry. Nature 450:537–40.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ohno T, Bro R. 2006. Dissolved organic matter characterization using multiway spectral decomposition of fluorescence landscapes. Soil Sci Soc Am J 70:2028–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ohno T, Amirbahman A, Bro R. 2008. Parallel factor analysis of excitation-emission matrix fluorescence spectra of water soluble soil organic matter as basis for the determination of conditional metal binding parameters. Environ Sci Technol 42:186–92.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Park JH, Matzner E. 2003. Controls on the release of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen from a deciduous forest floor investigated by manipulations of aboveground litter inputs and water flux. Biogeochemistry 66:265–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Qualls RG, Haines BL. 1992. Biodegradability of dissolved organic matter in forest throughfall, soil solution, and stream water. Soil Sci Soc Am J 56:578–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Qualls RG, Haines BL, Swank WT, Tyler SW. 2002. Retention of soluble organic nutrients by a forested ecosystem. Biogeochemistry 61:135–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Santín C, Yamashita Y, Otero XL, Álvarez MÁ, Jaffé R. 2009. Characterizing humic substances from estuarine soils and sediments by excitation-emission matrix spectroscopy and parallel factor analysis. Biogeochemistry 96:131–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Senesi N. 1990. Molecular and quantitative aspects of the chemistry of fulvic acid and its interactions with metal ions and organic chemicals: part II. The fluorescence spectroscopy approach. Anal Chim Acta 232:77–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Stedmon CA, Bro R. 2008. Characterizing dissolved organic matter fluorescence with parallel factor analysis: a tutorial. Limnol Oceanogr Methods 6:572–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Stedmon CA, Markager S. 2005. Resolving the variability in dissolved organic matter fluorescence in a temperate estuary and its catchment using PARAFAC analysis. Limnol Oceanogr 50:686–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stedmon CA, Markager S, Bro R. 2003. Tracing dissolved organic matter in aquatic environments using a new approach to fluorescence spectroscopy. Mar Chem 82:239–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Swank WT, Crossley Jr DA. 1988. Forest hydrology and ecology at Coweeta. New York: Springer. 469 pp.Google Scholar
  48. Swank WT, Schreuder HT. 1973. Temporal changes in biomass, surface area and net production for a Pinus strobus L. forest. International Union of Forest Research Organizations biomass studies. Working party on the mensuration of forest biomass, College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, University of Maine at Orono. pp 171–82.Google Scholar
  49. Tate CM, Meyer JL. 1983. The influence of hydrologic conditions and successional state on dissolved organic carbon export from forested watershed. Ecology 64:25–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Trumbore S. 2009. Radiocarbon and soil carbon dynamics. Annu Rev Earth Planet Sci 37:47–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wallace TA, Ganf GG, Brookes JD. 2008. A comparison of phosphorus and DOC leachates from different types of leaf litter in an urban environment. Freshw Biol 53:1902–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Williams CJ, Yamashita Y, Wilson HF, Jaffé R, Xenopoulos MA. 2010. Unraveling the role of land use and microbial activity in shaping dissolved organic matter characteristics in stream ecosystems. Limnol Oceanogr 55:1159–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wilson HF, Xenopoulos MA. 2009. Effects of agricultural land use on the composition of fluvial dissolved organic matter. Nat Geosci 2:37–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Yamashita Y, Tanoue E. 2003a. Chemical characterization of protein-like fluorophores in DOM in relation to aromatic amino acids. Mar Chem 82:255–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Yamashita Y, Tanoue E. 2003b. Distribution and alteration of amino acids in bulk DOM along a transect from bay to oceanic waters. Mar Chem 82:145–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yamashita Y, Scinto LJ, Maie N, Jaffé R. 2010a. Dissolved organic matter characteristics across a subtropical wetland’s landscape: application of optical properties in the assessment of environmental dynamics. Ecosystems 13:1006–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Yamashita Y, Maie N, Briceño H, Jaffé R. 2010b. Optical characterization of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in tropical rivers of Guayana Shield, Venezuela. J Geophys Res 105:G00F10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Yano Y, Lajtha K, Sollins P, Caldwel BA. 2005. Chemistry and dynamics of dissolved organic matter in a temperate coniferous forest on andic soils: effects of litter quality. Ecosystems 8:286–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Youhei Yamashita
    • 1
    • 2
  • Brian D. Kloeppel
    • 3
  • Jennifer Knoepp
    • 4
  • Gregory L. Zausen
    • 5
  • Rudolf Jaffé
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Southeast Environmental Research Center, and Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of Environmental Earth ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  3. 3.Department of Geosciences and Natural ResourcesWestern Carolina UniversityCullowheeUSA
  4. 4.Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, USDA Forest ServiceOttoUSA
  5. 5.Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, Odum School of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaOttoUSA

Personalised recommendations