DOC sources and DOC transport pathways in a small headwater catchment as revealed by carbon isotope fluctuation during storm events

Lambert, T.; Pierson-Wickmann, A.-C.; Gruau, G.; Jaffrezic, A.; Petitjean, P.; Thibault, J. N.; Jeanneau, L.

Monitoring the isotopic composition (δ 13C DOC) of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) during flood events can be helpful for locating DOC sources in catchments and quantifying their relative contribution to stream DOC flux. High-resolution (< hourly basis) δ 13C DOC data were obtained during six successive storm events occurring during the high-flow period in a small headwater catchment in western France. Intra-storm δ 13C DOC values exhibit a marked temporal variability, with some storms showing large variations (> 2 ‰), and others yielding a very restricted range of values (< 1 ‰). Comparison of these results with previously published data shows that the range of intra-storm δ 13C DOC values closely reflects the temporal and spatial variation in δ 13C DOC observed in the riparian soils of this catchment during the same period. Using δ 13C DOC data in conjunction with hydrometric monitoring and an end-member mixing approach (EMMA), we show that (i) > 80% of the stream DOC flux flows through the most superficial soil horizons of the riparian domain and (ii) the riparian soil DOC flux is comprised of DOC coming ultimately from both riparian and upland domains. Based on its δ 13C fingerprint, we find that the upland DOC contribution decreases from ca.~30% of the stream DOC flux at the beginning of the high-flow period to < 10% later in this period. Overall, upland domains contribute significantly to stream DOC export, but act as a size-limited reservoir, whereas soils in the wetland domains act as a near-infinite reservoir. Through this study, we show that δ 13C DOC provides a powerful tool for tracing DOC sources and DOC transport mechanisms in headwater catchments, having a high-resolution assessment of temporal and spatial variability.

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Lambert, T. / Pierson-Wickmann, A.-C. / Gruau, G. / et al: DOC sources and DOC transport pathways in a small headwater catchment as revealed by carbon isotope fluctuation during storm events. 2014. Copernicus Publications.

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