After the flood: consistency in DOM response to the 2010/2011 Australian floods

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Yulia Shutova, University of New South Wales, Water Research Centre, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Sydney, Australia, Andy Baker, UNSW Australia, Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre, Sydney, Australia, John Bridgeman, University of Birmingham, School of Civil Engineering, Birmingham, United Kingdom and Rita Henderson, University of New South Wales, School of Chemical Engineering, Sydney, Australia
The 2010/2011 floods in Eastern Australia were one of the worst on record, causing more than one billion AUD of damages and killing 35 people. This field campaign, monitoring raw water DOM concentration and character on three contrasting rivers across the region captured the late recession curve (October 2011- September 2012).

DOM was characterized using fluorescence excitation-emission matrix (EEM) spectra with PARAFAC analysis; δ 13C-DOC; and molecular size using liquid chromatography with organic carbon, UV254 and nitrogen detection (LC-OCD) to identify DOC fractions: biopolymers, humic substance (HS), building blocks (BB), low molecular weight acids, and low molecular weight neutrals.

Despite the difference in catchment and climatic zones, similar trends were observed in all three rivers, where DOC concentrations gradually decreased in river streams over a year from 8-11 mgCL-1 to 3-4 mgCL-1, followed by similar changes of HS, BB and fluorescent terrestrially delivered DOM components (C1-C3). In Allyn and Patterson rivers the proportion of HS, fluorescent terrestrially delivered DOM components (C1, C2) in DOC have decreased, in contrast to Logan River, where the ratio of HS/DOC was highly variable and showed no particular trends. The proportion of other DOC components remained almost the same. Molecular weight of the HS declined from 700 gmol-1 to 610 gmol-1 in all sites. δ 13C-DOC increased during monitoring, this could be linked to general decrease of DOM proportion delivered from C4 type plants after the flood.

Overall, although DOC concentration decreased over the year post flood at all sites, most importantly the composition of DOM changed, with major changes occurring in proportion of humic-like and fluorescent terrestrially delivered DOM. Therefore it is important to monitor DOM character to be able to assess the impact of climate change and extreme weather events on the DOM transport and transformation.