Scale-dependent lateral exchanges of organic carbon in a dryland river during a high-flow experiment

Alistar Robertson, A. Burns, T.J. Hillman

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    We estimated the magnitude and direction of exchanges of particulate organic carbon (POC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) between the river and four floodplain wetlands (billabongs) and a 140-km reach of riverbank and floodplain of the Murrumbidgee River during a managed high-flow experiment. There was a net transport of organic carbon from the river to billabongs during connection, ranging from 87 to 525kg POC per billabong or from 1.4 to 5.7g POC m-2 of billabong sediment surface area and from 36 to 4357kg DOC, or from 0.4 to 29.8g DOC m-2. At the whole-reach scale, there was a net loss of 754Mg POC from the river channel to riverbank and floodplain and a net input of 821Mg DOC to the river channel. This DOC input, which was small relative to the total organic carbon in transit, was likely to have contributed significantly to oxidative processes in the river. The DOC entering the river was derived from litter and soils in riverbank habitats or from abraded biofilms in the river channel. The results support an extended flood-pulse concept that includes in-channel flow pulses as important elements in the biogeochemistry of dryland rivers. Piggybacking dam releases on tributary flows to deliver in-channel flows delivers significant benefit for riverine organic-matter cycles.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1293-1301
    Number of pages9
    JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


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