Many glacial meltwater streams in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) of Antarctica contain abundant microbial mats, representing hot spots of primary production in a barren landscape. These mats persist through the winter in a freeze-dried state and grow in the summer, experiencing a dynamic hydrologic regime as streamflow varies on a diel cycle and with weather conditions. During diel peaks in flow these streams transport particulate organic matter (POM) to the downstream closed-basin lakes. We investigated the spatial and temporal dynamics of POM transport derived from the scouring of microbial mats in Von Guerard Stream of the MDV. The results show clockwise hysteresis effects in POM concentration over diel flood pulses and suggests that POM transport in the MDVs is supply limited. Further studies are required to confirm this and to identify the potential contributing sources of POM. The hysteresis effect was modeled using an approach derived from models of sediment transport in streams. Spatial variations in POM transport indicate that patchscale variations in bed shear stress and benthic biomass also influence transport which is integrated downstream over several 100’s of meters. Large variations in the POM transport dynamics between different diel flood pulses were found to be related to the time since a resetting flood event and the regrowth of potentially mobile benthic biomass, providing further evidence of the importance of supply limitation and flow variability in controlling the organic matter flux of stream ecosystems.
Cullis, J.D.S., Stanish, L.F., and McKnight, D.M. (2014): Diel flow pulses drive particulate organic matter transport from microbial mats in a glacial meltwater stream in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Water Resources Research 50: 86-97. DOI: 10.1002/2013WR014061
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.