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Hydrologic and forest management controls on dissolved organic matter characteristics in headwater streams of old-growth forests in the Oregon Cascades

Lee, Baek Soo, Lajtha, Kate
Forest ecology and management 2016 v.380 pp. 11-22
absorbance, aquatic ecosystems, base flow, biomass, carbon cycle, coarse woody debris, dissolved organic matter, dry season, factor analysis, fluorescence, fluorescence emission spectroscopy, forest management, old-growth forests, rivers, soil horizons, soil water, storms, streams, trees, watersheds, Cascade Mountain region, Oregon
Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is a critical component of the carbon cycle linking terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Although many factors have been identified as influencing DOM fluxes and biochemical quality in rivers with varying land cover types, controls on DOM composition in forested headwater catchments of the western U.S. are poorly understood. This study examined the effect of hydrologic patterns and forest management history on stream DOM chemistry at watersheds located in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest of the Oregon Cascades. Specific UV absorbance at 254nm (SUVA254), generally indicative of aromaticity, increased in streams during storms with increasing surficial soil horizon and litter DOM inputs. Fluorescence excitation and emission matrices (EEMs) with Parallel Factor Analysis (PARAFAC) identified a protein-like DOM fluorescent component as well as several other components associated with terrestrial plant material. Correlation analysis between the protein-like DOM component and hydrologic patterns, SUVA254, and DOC concentrations suggest that DOM during dry seasons represents more microbially-processed sources, such as protein-rich, deeper soil or DOM with greater in-stream microbial processing, compared to more plant-like surface soil sources observed during high flow. The base flow index (the proportion of base flow to total flow) showed a high correlation with the relative proportion of protein-like DOM indicating that deep soil water is a source of the protein-like signal. The relative proportions of the protein-like DOM and humic DOM were also influenced by the abundance of coarse woody debris (CWD), but not live tree biomass, with the proportions of protein-like DOM highest in harvested watersheds with low surficial CWD. This study shows UV and fluorescent spectroscopy is a viable finger printing method to elucidate DOM sources in pristine headwater streams at the western Cascades of Oregon.