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We show a comprehensive monitoring dataset on the discharge and carbon dynamics in an alpine headwater stream (Shaliu River) on Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, where riverine carbon increased downstream in pre-monsoon season due to increasing contribution of organic matter derived from seasonal permafrost thawing while fluctuated in the monsoon season induced by sporadic precipitation. These results indicate a high sensitivity of riverine carbon in alpine headwater streams to local hydrological events.
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-472
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-472

  22 Dec 2020

22 Dec 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Spatial-temporal variations in riverine carbon strongly influenced by local hydrological events in an alpine headwater stream

Xin Wang1,2,, Ting Liu1,, Liang Wang1, Zongguang Liu1,2, Erxiong Zhu1,2, Simin Wang1,2, Yue Cai1,2, Shanshan Zhu1,2, and Xiaojuan Feng1,2 Xin Wang et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100093, China
  • 2College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China
  • These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Headwater streams drain > 70 % of global land areas but are poorly monitored compared with large rivers. The small size and low water buffering capacity of headwater streams may result in a high sensitivity to local hydrological alterations and divergent carbon transport dynamics relative to large rivers. To assess these aspects, here we carry out a benchmark investigation on the riverine carbon dynamics in a typical alpine headwater stream (Shaliu River) on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau based on annual flux monitoring, in-depth seasonal sampling and hydrological event monitoring. We show that riverine carbon in the Shaliu River was dominated by dissolved inorganic carbon, peaking in the summer due to high discharge brought by the monsoon. Combining seasonal sampling along the river and monitoring of soil-river carbon transfer during spring thaw, we also show that both dissolved and particulate forms of riverine carbon increased downstream in the pre-monsoon season due to increasing contribution of organic matter derived from thawed permafrost along the river. By comparison, riverine carbon fluctuated in the summer, likely associated with sporadic inputs of organic matter supplied by local precipitation events during the monsoon season. Furthermore, using lignin phenol analysis for both riverine organic matter and soils in the basin, we show that the higher acid-to-aldehyde (Ad / Al) ratios of riverine lignin in the monsoon season reflect a larger contribution of topsoil likely via increased surface runoff compared with the pre-monsoon season when soil leachate lignin Ad / Al ratios were closer to those in the subsoil than topsoil solutions. Overall, these findings highlight the unique patterns and strong links of carbon dynamics in alpine headwater streams with local hydrological events. Given the projected climate warming on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, thawing of seasonal permafrost and alterations of precipitation regimes may significantly influence the alpine headwater carbon dynamics, with cascading effects on the biogeochemical cycles of the watersheds. The alpine headwater streams may also be utilized as sentinels for climate-induced changes in the hydrological pathways and/or biogeochemistry of the small basin.

Xin Wang et al.

 
Status: open (until 02 Feb 2021)
Status: open (until 02 Feb 2021)
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Xin Wang et al.

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Short summary
We show a comprehensive monitoring dataset on the discharge and carbon dynamics in an alpine headwater stream (Shaliu River) on Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, where riverine carbon increased downstream in pre-monsoon season due to increasing contribution of organic matter derived from seasonal permafrost thawing while fluctuated in the monsoon season induced by sporadic precipitation. These results indicate a high sensitivity of riverine carbon in alpine headwater streams to local hydrological events.
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