Although most of forested watersheds in temperate and boreal regions are snow-covered for a substantial portion of the year, responses of biogeochemical processes under the snow pack to climatic fluctuations are poorly understood. We investigated responses of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and surface water chemistry in stream and lake discharge waters draining the Arbutus Lake Watershed in the Adirondacks of New York State to climatic fluctuations during the snow-covered months from December through April. Interannual variability in stream discharge corresponded to changes in air temperature and snow pack depth across the winter months. Concentrations of DOC in stream water draining a subcatchment showed immediate positive responses to rising temperatures and subsequent increases in runoff during most snowmelt events. Increases in DOC concentrations usually coincided with decreases in pH and increases in total aluminum (Al) concentrations, while the correlations between concentrations of DOC and SO42- or base cations were negative. Although changes in air temperature, snow pack depth, and runoff were all significantly correlated with stream water concentrations of major solutes, stepwise linear regression found that runoff was the best predictor of solute concentrations. Results of stepwise linear regression with long-term monthly monitoring data collected at the lake outlet showed weaker but still consistent climatic effects on interannual variations in concentrations of DOC and other solutes. Over the 17 winter periods from December 1983 through April 2000, changes in seasonal average concentrations of DOC, H+, and Al in lake discharge generally corresponded to interannual variations in temperature, precipitation, and runoff, while SO42- and base cations displayed an opposite trend. The results suggest that snowmelt-mediated DOC responses to temperature fluctuations during the winter months might offset increases in the surface water pH caused by decreasing acidic deposition and pose a potential hazard of Al toxicity in surface waters.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry