Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2009 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Organic Matter and Emerging Contaminants Along an Urban River Continuum
Kaushal, Sujay
Co-Authors: Sujay S. Kaushal, Stuart E.G. Findlay, Peter M. Groffman, Kenneth T. Belt, Katie Delaney, Tamara Newcomer, Gwendolyn Stanko, and Paul M. Mayer

Abstract: We investigated the effects of urbanization on the sources, bioavailability and forms of natural and anthropogenic organic matter found in streams located in Maryland, U.S.A. We found that the abundance, biaoavailability, and enzymatic breakdown of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), and dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) increased in streams with increasing watershed urbanization suggesting that organic nutrients may represent a growing form of nutrient loading to coastal waters associated with land use change. Organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in urban streams were elevated several-fold compared to forest and agricultural streams. Enzymatic activities of stream microbes in organic matter decomposition were also significantly altered across watershed land use. Chemical characterization suggested that organic matter in urban streams originated from a variety of sources including terrestrial, sewage, and in-stream transformation. In addition, a characterization of emerging organic contaminants (polyaromatic cyclic hydrocarbons, organochlorine pesticides, and polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardents), showed that organic contaminants and dissolved organic matter increase with watershed urbanization and fluctuate substantially with changing climatic conditions. Elucidating the emerging influence of urbanization on sources, transport, and in-stream transformation of organic nutrients and contaminants will be critical in unraveling the changing role of organic matter in urban degraded and restored stream ecosystems.