Export of organic matter, sulphate and base cations from boreal headwater catchments downstream to the coast: impacts of land use and climate

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Title: Export of organic matter, sulphate and base cations from boreal headwater catchments downstream to the coast: impacts of land use and climate
Author: Mattsson, Tuija
Publisher: Finnish Environment Institute
Date: 2010
Language: en
Belongs to series: Monographs of the Boreal Environment Research 36
ISBN: 978-952-11-3759-4
ISSN: 1796-1661
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/39336
Abstract: The terrestrial export of dissolved organic matter (DOM) is associated with climate, vegetation and land use, and thus is under the influence of climatic variability and human interference with terrestrial ecosystems, their soils and hydrological cycles. The present study provides an assessment of spatial variation of DOM concentrations and export, and interactions between DOM, catchment characteristics, land use and climatic factors in boreal catchments. The influence of catchment characteristics, land use and climatic drivers on the concentrations and export of total organic carbon (TOC), total organic nitrogen (TON) and dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) was estimated using stream water quality, forest inventory and climatic data from 42 Finnish pristine forested headwater catchments, and water quality monitoring, GIS land use, forest inventory and climatic data from the 36 main Finnish rivers (and their sub-catchments) flowing to the Baltic Sea. Moreover, the export of DOM in relation to land use along a European climatic gradient was studied using river water quality and land use data from four European areas. Additionally, the role of organic and minerogenic acidity in controlling pH levels in Finnish rivers and pristine streams was studied by measuring organic anion, sulphate (SO4) and base cation (Ca, Mg, K and Na) concentrations. In all study catchments, TOC was a major fraction of DOM, with much lower proportions of TON and DOP. Moreover, most of TOC and TON was in a dissolved form. The correlation between TOC and TON concentrations was strong and TOC concentrations explained 78% of the variation in TON concentrations in pristine headwater streams. In a subgroup of 20 headwater catchments with similar climatic conditions and low N deposition in eastern Finland, the proportion of peatlands in the catchment and the proportion of Norway spruce (Picea abies Karsten) of the tree stand had the strongest correlation with the TOC and TON concentrations and export. In Finnish river basins, TOC export increased with the increasing proportion of peatland in the catchment, whereas TON export increased with increasing extent of agricultural land. The highest DOP concentrations and export were recorded in river basins with a high extent of agricultural land and urban areas, reflecting the influence of human impact on DOP loads. However, the most important predictor for TOC, TON and DOP export in Finnish rivers was the proportion of upstream lakes in the catchment. The higher the upstream lake percentage, the lower the export, indicating organic matter retention in lakes. Molar TOC:TON ratio decreased from headwater catchments covered by forests and peatlands to the large river basins with mixed land use, emphasising the effect of the land use gradient on the stoichiometry of rivers. This study also demonstrated that the land use of the catchments is related to both organic and minerogenic acidity in rivers and pristine headwater streams. Organic anion dominated in rivers and streams situated in northern Finland, reflecting the higher extent of peatlands in these areas, whereas SO4 dominated in southern Finland and on western coastal areas, where the extent of fertile areas, agricultural land, urban areas, acid sulphate soils, and sulphate deposition is highest. High TOC concentrations decreased pH values in the stream and river water, whereas no correlation between SO4 concentrations and pH was observed. This underlines the importance of organic acids in controlling pH levels in Finnish pristine headwater streams and main rivers. High SO4 concentrations were associated with high base cation concentrations and fertile areas, which buffered the effects of SO4 on pH.
Subject: valuma-alueet
orgaaninen aines

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