Variable flushing mechanisms and landscape structure control stream DOC export during snowmelt in a set of nested catchments
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Stream DOC dynamics during snowmelt have been the focus of much research, and numerous DOC mobilization and delivery mechanisms from riparian and upland areas have been proposed. However, landscape structure controls on DOC export from riparian and upland landscape elements remains poorly understood. We investigated stream and groundwater DOC dynamics across three transects and seven adjacent but diverse catchments with a range of landscape characteristics during snowmelt (April 15–July 15) in the northern Rocky Mountains, Montana. We observed a range of DOC export dynamics across riparian and upland landscape settings and varying degrees of hydrologic connectivity between the stream, riparian, and upland zones. DOC export from riparian zones required a hydrologic connection across the riparian–stream interface, and occurred at landscape positions with a wide range of upslope accumulated area (UAA) and wetness status. In contrast, mobilization of DOC from the uplands appeared restricted to areas with a hydrologic connection across the entire upland–riparian–stream continuum, which generally occurred only at areas with high UAA, and/or at times of high wetness. Further, the relative extent of DOC-rich riparian and wetland zones strongly influenced catchment DOC export. Cumulative stream DOC export was highest from catchments with a large proportion of riparian to upland area, and ranged from 6.3 to 12.4 kg ha−1 across the study period. This research suggests that the spatial/temporal intersection of hydrologic connectivity and DOC source areas drives stream DOC export.
KeywordsCatchment DOC Flushing Landscape structure Snowmelt Stream
This work was funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) grant EAR-0337650 to B.L. McGlynn, and fellowships awarded to V.J. Pacific (from the Inland Northwest Research Alliance—INRA, and the Big Sky Institute NSF GK-12 Program) and K.G. Jencso (INRA). Extensive logistic collaboration was provided by the Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest and the USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, especially Ward McCaughey. Airborne Laser Mapping was provided by the NSF-supported Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM). We are grateful to Diego Riveros-Iregui and Austin Allen for field assistance, and Galena Ackerman and John Mallard for performing laboratory analyses.
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