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Title: Wildfires lead to decreased carbon and increased nitrogen concentrations in upland arctic streams

The Central Siberian Plateau is undergoing rapid climate change that has resulted in increased frequency of forest fires and subsequent alteration of watershed carbon and nutrient dynamics. Across a watershed chronosequence (3 to >100 years since wildfire) we quantified the effects of fire on quantity and composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM), stream water nutrient concentrations, as well as in-stream nutrient uptake. Wildfires increased concentrations of nitrate for a decade, while decreasing concentrations of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen (DOC and DON) and aliphatic DOM contribution for five decades. These post-wildfire changes in stream DOM result in lower uptake efficiency of in-stream nitrate in recently burned watersheds. Nitrate uptake (as uptake velocity) is strongly dependent on DOM composition (e.g. polyphenolics), ambient dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), and DOC to DIN ratios. Our observations and experiments suggest that a decade-long pulse of inorganic nitrogen and a reduction of DOC export occur following wildfires in streams draining the Central Siberian Plateau. Increased fire frequency in the region is thus likely to both decrease DOM and increase nitrate delivery to the main stem Yenisei River, and ultimately the Arctic Ocean, in the coming decades.

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Publication Date:
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Scientific Reports
Nature Publishing Group
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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