You are here: Home / Research Topics / Research Highlights / Individual Highlight

Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

New Methods, Old Studies Reveal Source of Carbon in Lakes and Streams

Photo of Water in a stream on the Fernow Experimental Forest.Water in a stream on the Fernow Experimental Forest.Snapshot : Over recent decades, dissolved organic carbon concentrations (DOC) in lakes and streams have increased through the northern hemisphere, leading to concerns about changes in drinking water quality and about productivity of these aquatic ecosystems. Scientists paired a novel technique and long-term studies to explore this phenomenon and develop insight that can be used to improve water quality.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Adams, Mary Beth 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2018
Highlight ID : 1439

Summary

Over recent decades, dissolved organic carbon concentrations (DOC) in lakes and streams have increased through the northern hemisphere, leading to concerns about changes in water quality and about the productivity of these aquatic ecosystems. Researching the causes of increasing DOC concentrations in streams and lakes is complicated because these observations have been made across many different forest types, different air pollution histories, and shifting atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate. A Northern Research Station scientist and her partners used a novel technique, fluorescence spectroscopy, in conjunction with data from two decades-long watershed studies to explore a hypothesis for the cause of increased DOC. The combination of novel methodology and data from the Bear Brook Watershed in Maine and the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia allowed the research team to isolate the effects of soil acidification and to evaluate the sources of DOC at the whole ecosystem and decadal scales. Researchers found that watershed acidification significantly decreased streamwater DOC, with less of the DOC coming from terrestrial sources and more from in-stream microbial sources. Thus, cleaner air (decreasing sulfur deposition) does appear to be increasing the flux of terrestrial DOC to surface waters. Knowing this will be of use in designing water quality treatments to ensure quality drinking water from forested watersheds in the future.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Diane M. McKnight (University of Colorado Boulder)
  • Garret A. Rue (University of Colorado Boulder)
  • Ivan J. Fernandez (University of Maine)
  • Joshua A. Roberti (NEON)
  • Michael D. SanClements (NEON)
  • Robert. H. Lee (NEON)

Strategic
Program Areas

Priority
Areas