Although soil erosion and leaching can transfer a substantial portion of the annual terrestrial carbon (C) increment to aquatic systems, little is known about rapid changes in the amount and characteristics of soil organic C exported from mountainous watersheds during storm events. To trace short-term changes in sources and characteristics of soil organic C exported during storm events, we investigated storm-induced changes in concentrations of particulate and dissolved organic C (POC and DOC) and the stable isotope composition of suspended sediment (SS) in a mountainous, mixed land-use watershed in northern South Korea. Biweekly stream sampling in a headwater forest stream and a watershed outlet receiving agricultural runoff showed that concentrations of SS and POC were higher in the watershed outlet. In both the forest stream and outlet, POC concentrations were lower than DOC concentrations during baseflow, but increased rapidly with rising discharge during intense storms, resulting in higher peak POC concentrations than peak DOC concentrations. When δ 13C and δ 15N were compared between SS and potential source soils during three storm events, SS δ 13C and δ 15N in the forest stream were similar to forest floor δ 13C and δ 15N. SS δ 13C and δ 15N in the watershed outlet reflected the contribution from forest and cropland mineral soils during peak flow, with sand-size SS displaying increasing δ 13C and δ 15N with rising rainfall intensity. The results suggest that storm pulses of POC can be a transient, but dominant pathway of hydrologic C export overwhelming DOC export and that POC sources and characteristics can rapidly change corresponding to varying rainfall intensity.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (Basic Science Research Program 2010-0015205; ERC 2009-0093460). The international collaboration between Kangwon National University and University of Bayreuth was supported through the TERRECO project funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea and DFG (German Research Foundation; IRTG 1565).
- Dissolved organic carbon
- Extreme events
- Hydrologic carbon export
- Particulate organic carbon
- Soil carbon
- Stable isotopes