, Volume 111, Issue 1–3, pp 629–645 | Cite as

Temporal variation in river nutrient and dissolved lignin phenol concentrations and the impact of storm events on nutrient loading to Hood Canal, Washington, USA

  • Nicholas D. WardEmail author
  • Jeffrey E. Richey
  • Richard G. Keil


Rapid rainfall events can be responsible for a large proportion of annual nutrient and carbon loading from a watershed. The bioavailability of organic matter during these rapid loading events increases, suggesting that storms play a relevant role in the mobilization of potentially labile terrestrial carbon. A high correlation between river discharge rates and dissolved and particulate nutrient and carbon concentrations during autumn and winter storms was observed in several temperate Pacific Northwest rivers. Dissolved and particulate lignin concentrations also increased with river discharge; for example, in October 2009 dissolved lignin concentrations increased roughly 240% with a 200% increase in river discharge. During these storms a unique phenolic composition was observed for dissolved lignin that was rapidly mobilized from surface soils relative to the base flow of dissolved lignin. The observed increase in Ad/Al ratios with discharge indicates that rapidly mobilized dissolved lignin is more degraded than the base flow of dissolved lignin. Similarly, a marked increase in C/V ratios and decrease in the S/V ratio of dissolved lignin phenols with increasing river discharge was observed. These results may indicate a difference in source between mobilized and base flow pools, or, more likely, preferential degradation and mobilization/retention of specific lignin phenols. The cumulative results from this year-long data set indicate that a shallow nutrient-rich pool of particulate and dissolved organic matter accumulates in watersheds during periods of soil-saturation deficiency (summer). Autumn and winter storms mobilize this pool of accumulated nutrients from surface soils, which is exhausted with successive winter storms.


Fluvial Lignin Mobilization Nutrients Organic carbon Storm runoff 



Funding and support was provided by the UW School of Oceanography, the Puget Sound Regional Synthesis Model (PRISM), Washington Sea Grant, and the Hood Canal Dissolved Oxygen Program (HCDOP). Sample collection was made possible primarily by Dan Hannafious and Sean Hildebrandt of the HCSEG. Sample preparation and dissolved lignin phenol analyses were performed in the UW School of Oceanography Marine Organic Geochemistry Lab and supported in part by NSF 0926395 to Richard G. Keil. Dissolved nutrient analyses were performed by Aaron Morello and Kathy Krogslund in the UW School of Oceanography Marine Chemistry Lab. Particulate nutrient and stable isotope analyses were performed by the UC Davis Stable Isotope Facility. River discharge data was provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and HCSEG.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas D. Ward
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeffrey E. Richey
    • 1
  • Richard G. Keil
    • 1
  1. 1.School of OceanographyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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