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Nonlinear multidecadal trends in organic matter dynamics in Midwest reservoirs are a function of variable hydroclimate

October 6, 2022

Dissolved organic matter (DOM) and particulate organic matter (POM) can influence biogeochemical processes in aquatic systems. An understanding, however, of the source, composition, and processes driving inland reservoir organic matter (OM) cycling at a regional scale over the long term is currently unexplored. Here, we quantify decadal patterns (> 20 yr) of DOM quantity and composition and POM in 40 reservoirs in the midcontinent United States. We built 184 Random Forest models to identify how the relative influence of watershed characteristics and limnological parameters on OM dynamics may vary over time and in synchrony with hydroclimatic anomalies. The reservoir OM quantity and composition varied nonmonotonically through time and in contrast to lake browning observed in the northern hemisphere. Reservoir DOM composition switched from humic and aromatic during wet summers to aliphatic, potentially autochthonous DOM during particularly prolonged dry summers in the mid-2000s. The shift in reservoir DOM quantity and composition could be attributed to the change in time-varying control of watershed and limnological factors mediated by the hydroclimatic conditions. Watershed control (e.g., percent crops) was predominant during wet summers, while the effect of reservoir morphology (e.g., maximum depth) and water quality parameters (e.g., Secchi depth, chlorophyll a) were evident during dry summers. Thus, future predictions of drier conditions may promote “greening” with negative implications for reservoir water quality and treated drinking water. Considering the nonlinear nature of reservoir OM dynamics and its controls will help to better mitigate water quality issues in these constructed systems increasingly impacted by global changes.

Publication Year 2022
Title Nonlinear multidecadal trends in organic matter dynamics in Midwest reservoirs are a function of variable hydroclimate
DOI 10.1002/lno.12220
Authors Ruchi Bhattacharya, John R. Jones, Jennifer L. Graham, Daniel V. Obrecht, Anthony P. Thorpe, James D. Harlan, Rebecca L. North
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Limnology and Oceanography
Index ID 70237313
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New York Water Science Center