The transport of dissolved organic matter (DOM) down hillslopes to aquatic ecosystems has important implications for both terrestrial and aquatic primary productivity. DOM is an important energy and nutrient source for both terrestrial and aquatic microbes. Within watersheds, physical, chemical, and biological processes transform DOM, but it not well known how landscape heterogeneity may affect these processes in arctic watersheds.
In the northern foothills of the Brooks Range, expansion and contraction of mountain glaciers over the last several ice ages have created a mosaic of landscape ages with similar climate and vegetation. My research indicates that younger landscapes (<50,000yrs) have significantly lower pH, 10x higher exchangeable base cation concentrations, and significantly lower rates of DOM production and microbial respiration than older landscapes, which could significantly affect fluxes of carbon and nutrients across the landscape. At the watershed scale, I examined patterns in soil and stream water concentrations of DOM within hillslopes across the chronosequence. I found that while concentrations of dissolved organic carbon decreased significantly moving downslope from the hilltop to the stream; dissolved organic nitrogen concentrations remain similar within the hillslope, but are significantly different among landscape ages. I also used a variety of indices to examine spatial patterns in the biodegradability of DOM within hillslopes and among landscape ages in northern Alaska. My results suggest the low biodegradability of DOM found in streams and rivers in the region is not due to microbial processing of labile DOM in terrestrial ecosystems, but rather to production of recalcitrant DOM throughout the landscape.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2010. Major: Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. Advisors: Dr. Sarah E. Hobbie, Dr. Jacques C. Finlay. 1 computer file (PDF): ix, 197 pages, appendices 1-3. Ill. (maps)
Whittinghill, Kyle A..
Effect of topography and glaciation history on the movement of carbon and nitrogen within arctic hillsides..
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