US Long-Term Ecological Research Network
The hyporheic zone as a source of dissolved organic carbon and carbon gases to a temperate forested stream
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The objective of this study was to examine chemical changes in porewaters that occur over small scales (cm) as groundwater flows through the hyporheic zone and discharges to a stream in a temperate forest of northern Wisconsin. Hyporheic-zone porewaters were sampled at discrete depths of 2, 10, 15, 61, and 183 cm at three study sites in the study basin. Chemical profiles of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), CO2, CH4, and pH show dramatic changes between 61 cm sediment depth and the water-sediment interface. Unless discrete samples at small depth intervals are taken, these chemical profiles are not accounted for. Similar trends were observed at the three study locations, despite each site having very different hydraulic-flow regimes. Increases in DOC concentration by an order of magnitude from 61 to 15 cm depth with a corresponding decrease in pH and rapid decreases in the molecular weight of the DOC suggest that aliphatic compounds (likely organic acids) are being generated in the hyporheic zone. Estimated efflux rates of DOC, CO2, and CH4 to the stream are 6.2, 0.79, 0.13 moles m2 d-1, respectively, with the vast majority of these materials produced in the hyporheic zone. Very little of these materials are accounted for by sampling stream water, suggesting rapid uptake and/or volatilization.