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The river as a chemostat: fresh perspectives on dissolved organic matter flowing down the river continuum

April 16, 2015

A better understanding is needed of how hydrological and biogeochemical processes control dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition from headwaters downstream to large rivers. We examined a large DOM dataset from the National Water Information System of the US Geological Survey, which represents approximately 100 000 measurements of DOC concentration and DOM composition at many sites along rivers across the United States. Application of quantile regression revealed a tendency towards downstream spatial and temporal homogenization of DOC concentrations and a shift from dominance of aromatic DOM in headwaters to more aliphatic DOM downstream. The DOC concentration–discharge (C-Q) relationships at each site revealed a downstream tendency towards a slope of zero. We propose that despite complexities in river networks that have driven many revisions to the River Continuum Concept, rivers show a tendency towards chemostasis (C-Q slope of zero) because of a downstream shift from a dominance of hydrologic drivers that connect terrestrial DOM sources to streams in the headwaters towards a dominance of instream and near-stream biogeochemical processes that result in preferential losses of aromatic DOM and preferential gains of aliphatic DOM.

Publication Year 2015
Title The river as a chemostat: fresh perspectives on dissolved organic matter flowing down the river continuum
DOI 10.1139/cjfas-2014-0400
Authors Irena F. Creed, Diane M. McKnight, Brian Pellerin, Mark B. Green, Brian A. Bergamaschi, George R. Aiken, Douglas A. Burns, Stuart E G Findlay, James B. Shanley, Robert G. Striegl, Brent T. Aulenbach, David W. Clow, Hjalmar Laudon, Brian L. McGlynn, Kevin J. McGuire, Richard A. Smith, Sarah M. Stackpoole
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Index ID 70158663
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center; New York Water Science Center; National Research Program - Central Branch; John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis