, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 231–252 | Cite as

Controls of streamwater dissolved inorganic carbon dynamics in a forested watershed

  • Jacques C. Finlay


Iinvestigated controls of stream dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) sources andcycling along a stream size and productivity gradient in a temperate forestedwatershed in northern California. Dissolved CO2 (CO2(aq))dynamics in heavily shaded streams contrasted strongly with those of larger,open canopied sites. In streams with canopy cover > 97%, CO2 (aq)was highest during baseflow periods (up to 540 μM) and wasnegatively related to discharge. Effects of algal photosynthesis on CO2(aq) were minimal and stream CO2 (aq) was primarily controlledby groundwater CO2 (aq) inputs and degassing losses to theatmosphere. In contrast to the small streams, CO2 (aq) in larger,open-canopied streams was often below atmospheric levels at midday duringbaseflow and was positively related to discharge. Here, stream CO2(aq) was strongly influenced by the balance between autotrophic andheterotrophic processes. Dynamics of HCO3 werelesscomplex. HCO3 and Ca2+ were positivelycorrelated, negatively related to discharge, and showed no pattern with streamsize. Stable carbon isotope ratios of DIC (i.e. δ13C DIC)increased with stream size and discharge, indicating contrasting sources of DICto streams and rivers. During summer baseflows, δ13C DIC were13C-depleted in the smallest streams (minimum of−17.7‰) due to the influence of CO2 (aq) derived frommicrobialrespiration and HCO3 derived from carbonateweathering. δ13C DIC were higher (up to −6.6‰)inthe larger streams and rivers due to invasion of atmospheric CO2enhanced by algal CO2 (aq) uptake. While small streams wereinfluenced by groundwater inputs, patterns in CO2 (aq) and evidencefrom stable isotopes demonstrate the strong influence of stream metabolism andCO2 exchange with the atmosphere on stream and river carbon cycles.

CO2 Dissolved inorganic carbon Metabolism Stable carbon isotopes Streams Weathering 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

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  • Jacques C. Finlay

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