Articles | Volume 13, issue 9
Research article
10 May 2016
Research article |  | 10 May 2016

Along-stream transport and transformation of dissolved organic matter in a large tropical river

Thibault Lambert, Cristian R. Teodoru, Frank C. Nyoni, Steven Bouillon, François Darchambeau, Philippe Massicotte, and Alberto V. Borges

Abstract. Large rivers transport considerable amounts of terrestrial dissolved organic matter (DOM) to the ocean. However, downstream gradients and temporal variability in DOM fluxes and characteristics are poorly studied at the scale of large river basins, especially in tropical areas. Here, we report longitudinal patterns in DOM content and composition based on absorbance and fluorescence measurements along the Zambezi River and its main tributary, the Kafue River, during two hydrological seasons. During high-flow periods, a greater proportion of aromatic and humic DOM was mobilized along rivers due to the hydrological connectivity with wetlands, while low-flow periods were characterized by lower DOM content of less aromaticity resulting from loss of connectivity with wetlands, more efficient degradation of terrestrial DOM and enhanced autochthonous productivity. Changes in water residence time due to contrasting water discharge were found to modulate the fate of DOM along the river continuum. Thus, high water discharge promotes the transport of terrestrial DOM downstream relative to its degradation, while low water discharge enhances the degradation of DOM during its transport. The longitudinal evolution of DOM was also strongly impacted by a hydrological buffering effect in large reservoirs in which the seasonal variability of DOM fluxes and composition was strongly reduced.<

Short summary
This manuscript presents a detailed analysis of transport and transformation of dissolved organic matter along the Zambezi River and its largest tributary. A particular focus is put on the effects of floodplains/wetlands and reservoirs as well as low-flow vs. high-flow conditions on the longitudinal patterns in DOM concentration and composition. It is the first study to present such a detailed analysis for a whole, large river system, and in particular for a tropical river other than the Amazon.
Final-revised paper