Effects of land use and riparian flowpath on delivery of dissolved organic carbon to streams

Findlay, Stuart, John M. Quinn, Christopher W. Hickey, Greg Burrell, Malcolm Downes

Limnol. Oceanogr., 46(2), 2001, 345-355 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2001.46.2.0345

ABSTRACT: A set of near-stream flowpaths in pasture, native forest and exotic pine plantations in New Zealand was sampled to describe differences in dissolved organic carbon (DOC). The quantity and bioavailability of DOC varied among flowpaths in different land uses, with higher concentrations of DOC in near-stream flow paths than the parent groundwater emerging from the hillslope. Tiles incubated in these waters did not consistently yield higher bacterial growth rates than tiles incubated in groundwaters. DOC composition, measured as fluorescence and absorbance properties and extracellular enzyme fingerprints, differed significantly among land uses and position along flowpath. Differences in riparian vegetation can indirectly affect DOC by altering exposure to ultraviolet radiation. A 2-h exposure of water from subsurface flowpaths to full sunlight caused marked changes in fluorescence characteristics of water from the pasture catchment but only small changes in water from the native forest catchment. There were up to fivefold differences in extracellular enzyme activities on tiles incubated in light-exposed water for the native forest site, but not for the pasture site. Bacterial growth and respiration were higher on tiles incubated in native forest water exposed to sunlight, but there was no light effect on growth for tiles incubated in water from the pasture flowpath. These results indicate that riparian flowpaths will affect the quantity and character of DOC delivered to streams and ultraviolet exposure may, at least in some cases, alter DOC bioavailability.

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