Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Dissolved Organic Matter Characteristics in the Upper Willamette River Basin, Oregon

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Baek Soo Lee, Oregon State University, Water Resources Engineering, Corvallis, OR, United States and Kate Lajtha, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States
Dissolved organic matter (DOM) leaching through soil affects soil carbon sequestration and the carbon metabolism of receiving water bodies. Improving our understanding of the sources and fate of DOM at varying spatial and temporal patterns is crucial for land management decisions. However, little is known about how DOM sources change with land use types and seasonal flow patterns. In the Willamette River Basin (WRB), which is home to Oregon’s major cities including Portland and Salem, forested headwaters transition to agricultural and urban land. The climate of WRB has a distinctive seasonal pattern with dry warm summers and wet winters driven by winter precipitation and snowmelt runoff between November and March. This study examined DOM fluorescence characteristic in stream water from 21 locations collected monthly and 16 locations collected seasonally to identify the sources and fate of DOM in the upper WRB in contrasting land uses.

DOC and dissolved organic nitrogen concentrations increased as the flow rate increased during winter precipitation at all sites. This indicates that increased flow rate increased the connectivity between land and nearby water bodies. DOM fluorescent properties varied among land use types. During the first precipitation event after a long dry summer, a microbial DOM signature in agricultural areas increased along with nitrate concentrations. This may be because accumulated nutrients on land during the dry season flowed to nearby streams during the first rain event and promoted microbial growth in the streams. During the month of the highest flow rate in 2014, sampling sites near forest showed evidence of a greater terrestrial DOM signature compared to its signature during the dry season. This indicates fluorescent DOM characteristics in streams vary as the flow connectivity changes even within the same land type.