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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center


Relationships Between Land Cover and Dissolved Organic Matter Change Along the River to Lake Transition

Larson, J. H., Frost, P.C., Xenopoulos, M. A., Williams, C. J., Morales-Williams, A. M., Vallazza, J. M., Nelson, J. C. and Richardson. W.B., 2014, Relationships Between Land Cover and Dissolved Organic Matter Change Along the River to Lake Transition. Ecosystems, doi:10.1007/s10021-014-9804-2


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) influences the physical, chemical, and biological properties of aquatic ecosystems. We hypothesized that controls over spatial variation in DOM quantity and composition (measured with DOM optical properties) differ based on the source of DOM to aquatic ecosystems. DOM quantity and composition should be better predicted by land cover in aquatic habitats with allochthonous DOM and related more strongly to nutrients in aquatic habitats with autochthonous DOM. Three habitat types [rivers (R), rivermouths (RM), and the nearshore zone (L)] associated with 23 tributaries of the Laurentian Great Lakes were sampled to test this prediction. Evidence from optical indices suggests that DOM in these habitats generally ranged from allochthonous (R sites) to a mix of allochthonous-like and autochthonous-like (L sites). Contrary to expectations, DOM properties such as the fluorescence index, humification index, and spectral slope ratio were only weakly related to land cover or nutrient data (Bayesian R 2 values were indistinguishable from zero). Strongly supported models in all habitat types linked DOM quantity (that is, dissolved organic carbon concentration [DOC]) to both land cover and nutrients (Bayesian R 2 values ranging from 0.55 to 0.72). Strongly supported models predicting DOC changed with habitat type: The most important predictor in R sites was wetlands whereas the most important predictor at L sites was croplands. These results suggest that as the DOM pool becomes more autochthonous-like, croplands become a more important driver of spatial variation in DOC and wetlands become less important.


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