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Rice-paddy field acts as a buffer system to decrease the terrestrial characteristics of dissolved organic matter exported from a typical small agricultural watershed in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area, China

Abstract

Agricultural watersheds are a crucial contributor of terrestrial dissolved organic matter (DOM) for the adjacent aquatic environment. Recently, ecological engineering of the buffer zone such as a rice-paddy field was established to reduce the export of nutrients and contaminants from a small agricultural watershed. However, the potential of the rice-paddy field to reduce the terrestrial signature of DOM is unclear. Therefore, two small agricultural sub-catchments (i.e., sub-1 and sub-2) with different land uses and hill slope angles in the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) area of China were studied from 2014 to 2015. The results showed that the terrestrial DOM signals are indicated by optical indices (SUVA254, SR, fluorescence index) in the steeper and more forest covered, but rice-paddy field buffered sub-catchment (i.e., sub-2) decreased significantly, as compared to the reference sub-catchment (i.e., sub-1). Regardless of seasonal variations, the rice-paddy field retained a buffering role to reduce the terrestrial property of DOM and the highest capacity was observed during the rice-growth period. However, during storm events, the differences of DOM properties for two sub-catchments were not significant, because the buffer system was weakened. Finally, environmental implications of the role of such a buffer zone in the TGR areas are discussed. These results demonstrate that rice-paddy fields are successful in mitigating the terrestrial property of exported DOM, but the weaker performance during storm events still needs to be considered.

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Acknowledgments

Dr. Tao Jiang would like to thank the Swedish Research Council (VR) (621-2014-5370 and D697801) for generously sponsoring his research position at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). We also thank Dr. Rong Huang and Dr. Chenglong Chen for their help in the lab works and climate information collection. We thank Dr. Jinliang Wang for generously providing detailed slope information of WJD watershed. We thank Jinzhu Wang, for his help in preparing the sampling map. Importantly, great appreciations are extended to Ya Wang and Xiao Lin for their valuable help and supports during the whole sampling period. All authors want to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions for this work.

Funding

This work was supported financially by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41403079, 41671469), the Chongqing Research Program of Basic Research and Frontier Technology (cstc2015jcyjA20021), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities from the Ministry of Education of China (XDJK2015B035).

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Liu, J., Jiang, T., Kothawala, D.N. et al. Rice-paddy field acts as a buffer system to decrease the terrestrial characteristics of dissolved organic matter exported from a typical small agricultural watershed in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 23873–23885 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05702-0

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Keywords

  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Terrestrial characteristics
  • Rice-paddy field
  • Agricultural watershed
  • Buffer zone
  • The Three Gorges Reservoir Area