Chemistry of dissolved organic carbon at Bear Brook Watershed, Maine: Stream water response to (NH4)2SO4 additions

M. David, G. Vance, J. Kahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study was conducted to determine the response of stream water DOC and organic acidity to increased inputs of ammonium sulfate to a whole catchment. Precipitation, throughfall, soil solutions (from Spodosols) and stream waters were characterized for DOC concentrations and fractions (hydrophobic acids and neutrals, hydrophilic acids, bases, and neutrals) in both the control (East Bear) and the treatment (West Bear) catchments of Bear Brook Watershed, Maine (BBWM), a northern hardwood forest. In all solutions except precipitation, DOC was composed primarily of organic acids, with hydrophobic acids dominating (> 60% of DOC) in forest floor leachates (5000 μmol C L-1), and a balance of hydrophobic and hydrophilic acids in deep B horizons and stream waters (~ 150 μmol C L-1). Stream waters had higher concentrations of DOC during storm or snowmelt events (high discharge), often reaching 300 to 400 μmol C L-1. Forest floor leachate C was rapidly attenuated by the mineral soils under all flow conditions, indicating how important mineral soil sorption of DOC was in reducing the loss of C via surface water from BBWM. No differences occurred between control and treatment streams for concentration or composition of DOC due to treatment from 1989 through 1994. In 1995, West Bear Brook had much lower concentrations of DOC than East Bear for the first time. However, this occurred during a year of record low runoff, suggesting that hydrology may have affected export of C. Average annual export of DOC from the catchments was similar (1000 to 2000 mol C ha-1 yr-1). Organic anions in streamwaters increased slightly during high flow events (e.g., East Bear had means of 15 and 19 μeq L-1 organic anions during base flow and high discharge in 1995). Treatment of West Bear caused a decrease in organic anions, both in concentration and contribution to overall anion composition (organic anions during high discharge its a percentage of total anions decreased from about 8 to 4%, for 1987-89 and 1993-95 samples, respectively). This was probably due to decreased solution pH (greater protonation of organics) and higher concentrations of inorganic anions. Overall, there were no clear, detectable changes in stream water DOC, with only minor changes in organic anions, as a result of treatment with ammonium sulfate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-163
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 7 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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