Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2011 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Land-use Effect on Stream Organic Matter Composition in Two Metropolitan Areas in USA
Duan, Shuiwang
Co-Authors: Sujay Kaushal, Rainer Amon and Robin Brinkmeyer

Abstract: Urbanization is a form of land-use change that is increasing in coastal watersheds and may affect the quantity and quality of organic carbon delivered to streams and coastal ocean. Here, we examine the changes in optical and isotopic characteristics of organic matter in streams (Gwynns Fall and Buffalo Bayou) draining Baltimore and Houston Metropolitan Areas (USA), relative to nearby less affected forested watersheds. A summer longitudinal sampling in Gwynns Fall along a rural-urban gradient showed increases in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and fluorescent protein to humic ratio but a decrease in specific UV absorption (SUVA). Parallel Factor modeling shows dominance of terrestrial component of DOC, and the ratio of an unknown component to the component of humic substance was high in urban watersheds and it was positively correlated impervious surface cover (an index of urbanization). Incubation experiments with leaves and stream algae suggest origin of decayed leaf leachate of this component. Conversely, DOM in Buffalo Bayou showed higher intensity of protein-like fluorescence, and the intensity increased longitudinal along a rural-urban gradient but decreased from low-flows to a flooding event. The difference in fluorescent organic matter composition between the two streams probably reflected different management of wastewater in watersheds. Surface sediment collected at sites of sub-watersheds of Gwynns Fall showed changes in particle size, elemental and isotopic composition with land use. Sediment incubations showed that higher temperature (e.g., urban heat island effect) enhanced loss of labile organic matter and release of refractory organic matter into stream water. Release of reactive soluble phosphorus, loss of nitrogen and reduction of sulfate also occurred at high incubating temperatures, along with mineralization of sediment organic matter. Bed sediment collected along Buffalo Bayou displayed a longitudinal decrease in N-15, probably reflecting the displacement of waste water treatment plant in upper watershed. Organic matter compositions of suspended sediment, however, were more related to abundance of phytoplankton biomass.