23 Nov 2022
 | 23 Nov 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Geographical controls and anthropogenic impacts on dissolved organic carbon from mountainous rivers: Insights from optical properties and carbon isotopes

Shuai Chen, Jun Zhong, Lishan Ran, Yuanbi Yi, Wanfa Wang, Zelong Yan, Siliang Li, and Khan M. G. Mostofa

Abstract. Mountainous rivers (MRs) are one of the critical systems in transporting dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from terrestrial environments to downstream ecosystems. However, how geographical factors and anthropogenic impacts control the composition and export of DOC in mountainous rivers remains largely unclear. Here, we explore DOC dynamics in three subtropical mountainous catchments (i.e., the Yinjiang, Shiqian, and Yuqing catchments) in southwest China which are highly influenced by anthropogenic activities. Water chemistry, stable and radioactive carbon isotopes of DOC (δ13CDOC and Δ14CDOC) and optical properties (UV absorbance and fluorescence spectra) for river water were employed to assess the biogeochemical processes and controlling factors of DOC. The radiocarbon ages of the DOC in the Yinjiang River varied widely, ranging from 928 years before present to modern. Both allochthonous and autochthonous sources had an important effect on riverine DOC export. Results from carbon isotopes suggested that in-stream processing of POC is also an important source of DOC. DOC in catchments with higher slope gradients and lower annual air temperature was characterized by lower concentration and more aromatic, which was distinct from those with gentle slopes and higher temperature. Variabilities in DOC concentrations and δ13CDOC were also explained by land use, showing that higher DOC concentrations with 13C-depleted characters were observed in urban and agricultural land use areas. Moreover, DOM was less aromatic, less recently produced and had a higher degree of humification in catchments with a higher proportion of urban and agricultural land use area. This research highlights the significance of incorporating geographical controls and anthropogenic impacts into the MRs to better understand their DOC dynamics and quality of dissolved organic matter (DOM).

Shuai Chen et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2022-217', Anonymous Referee #1, 21 Jan 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2022-217', Anonymous Referee #2, 22 Jan 2023
  • RC3: 'Comment on bg-2022-217', Anonymous Referee #3, 01 Feb 2023

Shuai Chen et al.

Shuai Chen et al.


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Short summary
This study found source of dissolved organic carbon and optical properties (e.g., aromaticity, humification) are related with human land uses and catchment slope in anthropogenically-impacted subtropical mountainous rivers. This study highlights that the combination of dual carbon isotopes and optical properties are useful tools in tracing the origin of dissolved organic carbon and its in-stream processes.