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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-81
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-81
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 07 Mar 2019

Research article | 07 Mar 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Assessing inter-annual and seasonal patterns of DOC and DOM quality across a complex alpine watershed underlain by discontinuous permafrost in Yukon, Canada

Nadine J. Shatilla and Sean Carey Nadine J. Shatilla and Sean Carey
  • Watershed Hydrology Group, School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, L8S 4K1

Abstract. High latitude environments store approximately half of the global organic carbon pool in peatlands, organic soils and permafrost while large arctic rivers convey an estimated 18–50 Tg C a−1 to the Arctic Ocean. Warming trends associated with climate change affect dissolved organic carbon (DOC) export from terrestrial to riverine environments. However, there is limited consensus as to whether exports will increase or decrease due to complex interactions between climate, soils, vegetation, and associated production, mobilization and transport processes. A large body of research has focused on large river system DOC and DOM lability and observed trends conserved across years, whereas investigation at smaller watershed scales show that thermokarst and fire have a transient impact on hydrologically-mediated solute transport. This study, located in the Wolf Creek Research Basin situated ~ 20 km south of Whitehorse, YT, Canada, utilises a nested design to assess seasonal and annual patterns of DOC and DOM composition across diverse landscape types (headwater, wetland, lake) and watershed scales. Peak DOC concentration and export occurred during freshet per most northern watersheds, however, peaks were lower than a decade ago at the headwater site Granger Creek. DOM composition was most variable during freshet with high A254, SUVA254 and low FI and BIX. DOM composition was relatively insensitive to flow variation during summer and fall. The influence of increasing watershed scale and downstream mixing of landscape contributions was an overall dampening of DOC concentrations and optical indices with increasing groundwater contribution. Forecasted vegetation shifts, permafrost thaw and other changes due to climate change may alter DOM sources from predominantly organic soils to decomposing vegetation, and facilitate transport through deeper flow pathways with an enhanced groundwater role.

Nadine J. Shatilla and Sean Carey
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Nadine J. Shatilla and Sean Carey
Nadine J. Shatilla and Sean Carey
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Short summary
High latitude, alpine environments are changing rapidly in response to warmer temperatures and associated impacts and feedbacks. We used streamflow and dissolved organic carbon concentrations and quality to better understand how different surface water bodies transport and process this dissolved material over multiple seasons and years. Information on quality provides insight into organic material sources and possible changes in composition related to higher summer rainfall and fall flow.
High latitude, alpine environments are changing rapidly in response to warmer temperatures and...
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