, Volume 95, Issue 2–3, pp 277–293 | Cite as

Seasonal changes in the chemical quality and biodegradability of dissolved organic matter exported from soils to streams in coastal temperate rainforest watersheds

  • Jason B. Fellman
  • Eran Hood
  • David V. D’Amore
  • Richard T. Edwards
  • Dan White


The composition and biodegradability of streamwater dissolved organic matter (DOM) varies with source material and degree of transformation. We combined PARAFAC modeling of fluorescence excitation–emission spectroscopy and biodegradable dissolved organic carbon (BDOC) incubations to investigate seasonal changes in the lability of DOM along a soil-stream continuum in three soil types: bog, forested wetland and upland forest. The percent BDOC ranged from 7 to 38% across all sites, and was significantly greater in soil compared to streamwater in the bog and forested wetland, but not in the upland forest. The percent BDOC also varied significantly over the entire sampling period in soil and streamwater for the bog and forested wetland, as BDOC peaked during the spring runoff and was lowest during the summer months. Moreover, the chemical quality of DOM in wetland soil and streamwater was similar during the spring runoff and fall wet season, as demonstrated by the similar contribution of protein-like fluorescence (sum of tyrosine and tryptophan fluorescence) in soil water and in streams. These findings suggest that the tight coupling between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is responsible for the delivery of labile DOM from wetland soils to streams. The contribution of protein-like fluorescence was significantly correlated with BDOC (p < 0.001) over the entire sampling period indicating DOM is an important source of C and N for heterotrophic microbes. Taken together, our findings suggest that the production of protein-rich, labile DOM and subsequent loss in stream runoff might be an important loss of labile C and N from coastal temperate watersheds.


Biodegradable dissolved organic carbon Dissolved organic matter Dissolved organic nitrogen Fluorescence PARAFAC Peatland Biogeochemistry 



The authors wish to acknowledge Karen Michael, Jacob Berkowitz, Adelaide Johnson, Erik Norberg, Mark Lukey, Denise Elston, Nicholas Bonzey and Andy Bookter for their tremendous laboratory and field assistance. This study was funded by the US Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative, grant number 2005-35102-16289, the USDA Forest Service, Resource Management and Productivity Program and the Aquatic and Land Interactions Program at the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Juneau, AK. The use of trade or firm names in this publication is for reader information and does not imply endorsement by the US Department of Agriculture of any product or service.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason B. Fellman
    • 1
  • Eran Hood
    • 2
  • David V. D’Amore
    • 3
  • Richard T. Edwards
    • 3
  • Dan White
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska, FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Science ProgramUniversity of Alaska SoutheastJuneauUSA
  3. 3.U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research StationJuneauUSA
  4. 4.Institute of Northern EngineeringUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA

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