Hydrological and land-use controls of watershed exports of DOM and nutrients in a large arid river basin of Western China

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Yuehan Lu1, Yue Hu2, Jennifer W Edmonds3, Chunmiao Zheng1 and Sai Wang2, (1)University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, United States, (2)Peking Univeristy, Water Center, Beijing, China, (3)Nevada State College, Henderson, NV, United States
The Heihe River Basin (HRB) is the second largest inland river basin in arid Western China. The Heihe river has been significantly modified to make human settlements possible, particularly involving regulating water flow and extracting groundwater to support irrigated agriculture. It remains unknown how these engineered modifications alter transfers of carbon and nutrients from the watersheds to the river. We sampled surface water and groundwater in the middle reach of the HRB during contrasting hydrology regimes. In addition to DOM and nutrients (nitrate, nitrite, phosphate), a series of parameters (δ18O, δD, cation, and DIC) were analyzed to constrain water sources. Five DOM fluorescence components were identified, including two terrestrial humic-like components (C1 and C2), two protein-like components (C3 and C4), and one component (C5) indicative of resistant compounds persisting in deep groundwater. During the period of high discharge, high fluxes of DOM and nutrients were observed, and DOM was characterized by higher %C1, %C2 and %C5, lower %C3 and %C4, greater values of humification index, and lower values of fluorescence index (FI). This observation suggests that high riverine flow mobilized soil-derived OM and resistant OM into the river but suppressed the contributions of autochthonous, microbial OM. δ13C-DOC values fell in a general range indicative of the dominance of C3 plants but became more enriched in agricultural areas, indicating the influence of corn OM. A positive correlation between nutrient concentrations versus FI values during the period of low discharge suggests that irrigation return flow was an important source for both nutrients and humic DOM in the river. Our data demonstrate that watershed exports of nutrients and DOM were collectively controlled by hydrology and watershed land use, and the influence of land use was more evident during low discharge regimes.