A better understanding is needed of how hydrological and biogeochemical processes control dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition from headwaters downstream to large rivers. We examined a large DOM dataset from the National Water Information System of the US Geological Survey, which represents approximately 100 000 measurements of DOC concentration and DOM composition at many sites along rivers across the United States. Application of quantile regression revealed a tendency towards downstream spatial and temporal homogenization of DOC concentrations and a shift from dominance of aromatic DOM in headwaters to more aliphatic DOM downstream. The DOC concentration–discharge (C-Q) relationships at each site revealed a downstream tendency towards a slope of zero. We propose that despite complexities in river networks that have driven many revisions to the River Continuum Concept, rivers show a tendency towards chemostasis (C-Q slope of zero) because of a downstream shift from a dominance of hydrologic drivers that connect terrestrial DOM sources to streams in the headwaters towards a dominance of instream and near-stream biogeochemical processes that result in preferential losses of aromatic DOM and preferential gains of aliphatic DOM.
Creed, I. F., McKnight, D. M., Pellerin, B. A., Green, M. B., Bergamaschi, B. A., Aiken, G. R., Burns, D. A., Findlay, S. E. G., Shanley, J. B., Striegl, R. G. (2015): The river as a chemostat: Fresh perspectives on dissolved organic matter flowing down the river continuum . Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 72(8):1272-1285. DOI: 10.1139/cjfas-2014-0400
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.