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Isotopic characteristics and sources of suspended particulate organic matter in a reservoir of Chinese desert grassland areas: the influence of dry and wet seasons and the role of atmospheric deposition


It is essential to study the sources of suspended particulate organic matter (SPOM) for a comprehensive understanding of the carbon and nitrogen cycles in reservoir located in desert grassland areas. Atmospheric deposition is an important pathway for human and natural nutrients to enter water ecosystems. Previous studies have focused on hotspot areas, but neglected the impact of atmospheric deposition on reservoirs in desert grassland regions with little rainfall, long freezing periods, and a dusty climate. In this study, we measured the contents of organic carbon, total nitrogen, the isotopic composition (δ13C and δ15N), and the ratio of total organic carbon to total nitrogen (C/N ratios) for SPOM in the reservoir and its watershed across both dry and wet seasons using carbon and nitrogen isotope techniques. We also analyzed the sources of SPOM in the reservoir using the end-member mixing model. The results showed that the variation range in SPOM for δ13C was − 28.3 to − 21.8‰; for δ15N, it was 2.3 to 8.7‰; and the C/N ratios were 8.12 to 19.12. The variation range of δ13C for atmospheric particulate matter was − 20.0 to − 25.0‰; for δ15N, it was 2.3 to 11.9‰; and the C/N ratios ranged from 7.22 to 17.81. The main sources of carbon in the SPOM were atmospheric deposition and terrestrial C3 plants. The origins were significantly different between the wet and dry periods. Atmospheric nitrogen deposition and soil erosion were the primary sources of particulate nitrogen in the reservoir.

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This work was jointly supported by Program for Young Talents of Science and Technology in Universities of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region; the Natural Science Foundation of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, under the grant 2021MS04013; the National Natural Science Foundation of China, under grants of 52079063 and 51869021; and Key Research and Development Program of China, under the grant 2019YFC0609204. This work was also supported by the Program for Innovative Research Team in Universities of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (NMGIRT2313).

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All authors read and approved the final version of the article. Xiaojing Zhang was responsible for reviewing the data, analyzing, interpreting the data, and writing the text. Junping Lu was responsible for correcting the text and discussing the results. Ruishen Li, Wenlong Gao, and Xi Lin were responsible for collecting and interpreting the data and preparing the maps. Shengwei Zhang was the study supervisor.

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Correspondence to Shengwei Zhang.

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Zhang, X., Zhang, S., Lu, J. et al. Isotopic characteristics and sources of suspended particulate organic matter in a reservoir of Chinese desert grassland areas: the influence of dry and wet seasons and the role of atmospheric deposition. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2023).

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  • Desert grassland areas
  • Reservoir
  • Suspended particulate organic matter
  • Carbon isotopes
  • Nitrogen isotopes
  • Atmospheric deposition
  • Source analysis