Seasonal contribution of terrestrial organic matter and biological oxygen demand to the Baltic Sea from three contrasting river catchments
To examine the potential influence of terrestrially derived DOM on the Baltic Sea, a year-long study of dissolved organic matter (DOM) was performed in three river catchments in Sweden. One catchment drains into the Bothnian Sea, while two southern catchments drain into the Baltic proper. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations were positively correlated with discharge from forested catchments over the year. While the overall concentrations of DOC were several times higher in the southern two catchments, higher discharge in the northern catchment resulted in the annual loadings of DOC being on the same order of magnitude for all three catchments. Biological oxygen demand (BOD) was used as a proxy for the lability of carbon in the system. The range of BOD values was similar for all three catchments, however, the ratio of BOD to DOC (an indication of the labile fraction) in Ume river was four times higher than in the southern two catchments. Total annual BOD loading to the Baltic Sea was twice as high in the northern catchment than in the two southern catchments. Lower winter temperatures and preservation of organic matter in the northern catchment combined with an intense spring flood help to explain the higher concentrations of labile carbon in the northern catchment. Lower lability of DOM as well as higher colour in the southern catchments suggest that wetlands (i.e. peat bogs) may be the dominant source of DOM in these catchments, particularly in periods of low flow. With climate change expected to increase precipitation events and temperatures across the region, the supply and quality of DOM delivered to the Baltic Sea can also be expected to change. Our results indicate that DOM supply to the Baltic Sea from boreal rivers will be more stable throughout the year, and potentially have a lower bioavailability.