USF St. Petersburg campus Faculty Publications


Influence of land cover on riverine dissolved organic carbon concentrations and export in the Three Rivers Headwater Region of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

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Joseph M. Smoak

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The Qinghai-Tibetan plateau (QTP) stores a large amount of soil organic carbon and is the headwater region for several large rivers in Asia. Therefore, it is important to understand the influence of environmental factors on river water quality and the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) export in this region. We examined the water physico-chemical characteristics, DOC concentrations and export rates of 7 rivers under typical land cover types in the Three Rivers Headwater Region during August 2016. The results showed that the highest DOC concentrations were recorded in the rivers within the catchment of alpine wet meadow and meadow. These same rivers had the lowest total suspended solids (TSS) concentrations. The rivers within steppe and desert had the lowest DOC concentrations and highest TSS concentrations. The discharge rates and catchment areas were negatively correlated with DOC concentrations. The SUVA254 values were significantly negatively correlated with DOC concentrations. The results suggest that the vegetation degradation, which may represent permafrost degradation, can lead to a decrease in DOC concentration, but increasing DOC export and soil erosion. In addition, some of the exported DOC will rapidly decompose in the river, and therefore affect the regional carbon cycle, as well as the water quality in the source water of many large Asian rivers.


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