Link between DOC in near surface peat and stream water in an upland catchment
Clark, J. M., Lane, S. N., Chapman, P. J. and Adamson, J. K. (2008) Link between DOC in near surface peat and stream water in an upland catchment. Science of the Total Environment, 404 (2-3). pp. 308-315. ISSN 0048-9697
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2007.11.002
Hydrologic transport of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from peat soils may differ to organo-mineral soils in how they responded to changes in flow, because of differences in soil profile and hydrology. In well-drained organo-mineral soils, low flow is through the lower mineral layer where DOC is absorbed and high flow is through the upper organic layer where DOC is produced. DOC concentrations in streams draining organo-mineral soils typically increase with flow. In saturated peat soils, both high and low flows are through an organic layer where DOC is produced. Therefore, DOC in stream water draining peat may not increase in response to changes in flow as there is no switch in flow path between a mineral and organic layer. To verify this, we conducted a high-resolution monitoring study of soil and stream water at an upland peat catchment in northern England. Our data showed a strong positive correlation between DOC concentrations at − 1 and − 5 cm depth and stream water, and weaker correlations between concentrations at − 20 to − 50 cm depth and stream water. Although near surface organic material appears to be the key source of stream water DOC in both peat and organo-mineral soils, we observed a negative correlation between stream flow and DOC concentrations instead of a positive correlation as DOC released from organic layers during low and high flow was diluted by rainfall. The differences in DOC transport processes between peat and organo-mineral soils have different implications for our understanding of long-term changes in DOC exports. While increased rainfall may cause an increase in DOC flux from peat due to an increase in water volume, it may cause a decrease in concentrations. This response is contrary to expected changes in DOC exports from organo-mineral soils, where increase rainfall is likely to result in an increase in flux and concentration.