Climatic Change, 40(2):167-188, 1998. Paper abstract bibtex
Most Precambrian Shield forested catchments have some wetland component. Even small riparian wetlands are important modifiers of stream chemistry. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is one of the most important products exported by wetlands in streams. Stratigraphic control of hydraulic conductivity generally leads to decreasing conductivity with depth. Thus important flowpaths occur in the uppermost organic rich layers and are reflected in chemical profiles of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Accumulation of DOC in peat porewaters is the net effect of production, consumption and transport. DOC profiles vary with degree of interaction with the surrounding upland catchment and distance from the edge of the wetland as well as internal processes within the wetland. In wetlands, DOM production is offset by flushing resulting in decreasing DOC concentrations with increasing flows. Despite old carbon (2,000 to 3,000 years) at relatively shallow depths, 14C activity in DOC exported from wetlands is mostly modern (recent carbon), consistent with shallow flowpaths and export of DOM from shallow organic rich horizons. In contrast, the source area for DOM in upland catchments with developed B horizon soils increases with antecedent soil moisture conditions resulting in increasing DOC concentrations with higher stream flows. Activity of 14C in stream DOC from upland catchments span a range from low activities (older carbon) similar to B horizon soil water during dry moisture conditions to values slightly less than modern (more recent carbon) during high moisture conditions. The more modern carbon activities reflect the increased contribution of the organic rich litter and A horizon soil layers in the area immediately bordering the stream under wet antecedent moisture conditions. Reduced hydrologic export or loss of wetlands under drier climatic conditions may result in in larger fluctuations in stream DOC concentrations and reduced DOM loads to lakes.