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- American Geophysical Union Annual conference
- Medium: X
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- National Science Foundation
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Soil biota generate CO2 that can vertically export to the atmosphere, and dissolved organic and inorganic carbon (DOC and DIC) that can laterally export to streams and accelerate weathering. These processes are regulated by external hydroclimate forcing and internal structures (permeability distribution), the relative influences of which are rarely studied. Understanding these interactions is essential a hydrological extremes intensify in the future. Here we explore the question: How and to what extent do hydrological and permeability distribution conditions regulate soil carbon transformations and chemical weathering? We address the questions using a hillslope reactive transport model constrained by data from the Fitch Forest (Kansas, United States). Numerical experiments were used to mimic hydrological extremes and variable shallow-versus-deep permeability contrasts. Results demonstrate that under dry conditions (0.08 mm/day), long water transit times led to more mineralization of organic carbon (OC) into inorganic carbon (IC) form (>98\%). Of the IC produced, ~ 75\% was emitted upward as CO2 gas and ~ 25\% was exported laterally as DIC into the stream. Wet conditions (8.0 mm/day) resulted in less mineralization (~88\%), more DOC production (~12\%), and more lateral fluxes of IC (~50\% of produced IC). Carbonate precipitated under dry conditions and dissolved under wet conditions as the fast flow rapidly droves the reaction to disequilibrium. The results depict a conceptual hillslope model that prompts four hypotheses for our community to test. H1: Droughts enhance carbon mineralization and vertical upward carbon fluxes, whereas large hydrological events such as storms and flooding enhance subsurface vertical connectivity, reduce transit times, and promote lateral export. H2: The role of weathering as a net carbon sink or source to the atmosphere depends on the interaction between hydrologic flows and lithology: transition from droughts to storms can shift carbonate from a carbon sink (mineral precipitation) to carbon source (dissolution). H3: Permeability contrasts regulate the lateral flow partitioning via shallow flow paths versus deeper groundwater though this alter reaction rates negligibly. H4: Stream chemistry reflect flow paths and can potentially quantify water transit times: solutes enriched in shallow soils have a younger water signature; solutes abundant at depth carry older water signature.more » « less
How does hillslope structure (e.g., hillslope shape and permeability variation) regulate its hydro‐geochemical functioning (flow paths, solute export, chemical weathering)? Numerical reactive transport experiments and particle tracking were used to answer this question. Results underscore the first‐order control of permeability variations (with depth) on vertical connectivity (VC), defined as the fraction of water flowing into streams from below the soil zone. Where permeability decreases sharply and VC is low, >95% of water flows through the top 6 m of the subsurface, barely interacting with reactive rock at depth. High VC also elongates mean transit times (MTTs) and weathering rates. VC however is less of an influence under arid climates where long transit times drive weathering to equilibrium. The results lead to three working hypotheses that can be further tested.
H1: The permeability variations with depth influence MTTs of stream water more strongly than hillslope shapes; hillslope shapes instead influence the younger fraction of stream water more. H2: High VC arising from high permeability at depths enhances weathering by promoting deeper water penetration and water‐rock interactions; the influence of VC weakens under arid climates and larger hillslopes with longer MTTs. H3: VC regulates chemical contrasts between shallow and deep waters (C ratio ) and solute export patterns encapsulated in the power law slope b of concentration‐discharge (CQ) relationships. Higher VC leads to similar shallow versus deep water chemistry (C ratio ∼1) and more chemostatic CQ patterns. Although supporting data already exist, these hypotheses can be further tested with carefully designed, co‐located modeling and measurements of soil, rock, and waters. Broadly, the importance of hillslope subsurface structure (e.g., permeability variation) indicate it is essential in regulating earth surface hydrogeochemical response to changing climate and human activities.
The shallow and deep hypothesis suggests that stream concentration‐discharge (CQ) relationships are shaped by distinct source waters from different depths. Under this hypothesis, baseflows are typically dominated by groundwater and mostly reflect groundwater chemistry, whereas high flows are typically dominated by shallow soil water and mostly reflect soil water chemistry. Aspects of this hypothesis draw on applications like end member mixing analyses and hydrograph separation, yet direct data support for the hypothesis remains scarce. This work tests the shallow and deep hypothesis using co‐located measurements of soil water, groundwater, and streamwater chemistry at two intensively monitored sites, the W‐9 catchment at Sleepers River (Vermont, United States) and the Hafren catchment at Plynlimon (Wales). At both sites, depth profiles of subsurface water chemistry and stream CQ relationships for the 10 solutes analyzed are broadly consistent with the hypothesis. Solutes that are more abundant at depth (e.g., calcium) exhibit dilution patterns (concentration decreases with increasing discharge). Conversely, solutes enriched in shallow soils (e.g., nitrate) generally exhibit flushing patterns (concentration increases with increasing discharge). The hypothesis may hold broadly true for catchments that share such biogeochemical stratifications in the subsurface. Soil water and groundwater chemistries were estimated from high‐ and low‐flow stream chemistries with average relative errors ranging from 24% to 82%. This indicates that streams mirror subsurface waters: stream chemistry can be used to infer scarcely measured subsurface water chemistry, especially where there are distinct shallow and deep end members.
The evasion of CO2from inland waters, a major carbon source to the atmosphere, depends on dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentrations. Our understanding of DIC dynamics across gradients of climate, geology, and vegetation conditions however have remained elusive. To understand its large‐scale patterns and drivers, we collated instantaneous and mean (multiyear average) DIC concentrations from about 100 rivers draining minimally‐impacted watersheds in the contiguous United States. Within individual sites, instantaneous concentrations (
C) measured at daily to seasonal scales exhibit a near‐universal response to changes in river discharge ( Q) in a negative power law form. High concentrations occur at low discharge when DIC‐enriched groundwater dominates river discharge; low concentrations occur under high flow when relatively DIC‐poor shallow soil water predominates river discharge. Such patterns echo the widely observed increase of soil CO2and DIC with depth and the shallow‐and‐deep hypothesis that emphasizes the importance of flow paths and source water chemistry. Across sites, mean concentrations ( C m) decrease with increasing mean discharge ( Q m), a long‐term climate measure, and reachs maxima at around 200 mm/yr. A parsimonious model reveals that high mean DIC arises from soil CO2accumulation when rates of DIC‐generating reactions are relatively high compared to its export fluxes in arid climates. Although instantaneous and mean DIC concentrations similarly decrease with increasing discharge, results here highlight their distinct drivers: daily to seasonal‐scale instantaneous concentration variations (C) are controlled by subsurface CO2distribution over depth (from below), whereas long‐term mean concentrations ( C m) are regulated by climate (from above). The results emphasize the significance of land‐river connectivity via subsurface flow paths. They also underscore the importance of characterizing subsurface CO2distribution to illuminate belowground processes in order to project the future of water and carbon cycles in a warming climate.
Quantifying the routing of snowmelt to surface water is critical for predicting the impacts of atmospheric deposition and changing land use on water quality in montane catchments. To investigate solute sources and streamflow in the montane Provo River watershed (Utah, USA), we used time‐series87Sr/86Sr ratios sampled at three sites (Soapstone, Woodland and Hailstone) across a gradient of bedrock types. Soils are influenced by aeolian dust contributions, with distinct87Sr/86Sr ratios relative to siliciclastic bedrock, providing an opportunity to investigate shallow versus deeper flow paths for controlling water chemistry. At the most upstream site (Soapstone), Sr concentrations averaged ~17 μg/L with minimal dilution during snowmelt suggesting subsurface flow paths dominated streamflow. However, a decrease in87Sr/86Sr ratios from ~0.717 during baseflow to as low as ~0.713 during snowmelt indicated the activation of shallow flow paths through dust‐derived soils. In contrast, downstream sites receiving water inputs from Sr‐rich carbonate bedrock (Woodland and Hailstone) exhibited strong dilution of Sr from ~120 to 20 μg/L and an increase in87Sr/86Sr ratios from ~0.7095 to ~0.712 during snowmelt. A three‐component mixing model using87Sr/86Sr ratios and Sr concentrations at Soapstone showed water inputs were dominated by direct snowmelt and flushed soil water during runoff and groundwater during baseflow. At Woodland and Hailstone, a two‐component mixing model showed that the river was a mixture of groundwater and up to 75% upstream channel water during snowmelt. Our findings highlight the importance of flushed soil water for controlling stream water discharge and chemistry during snowmelt, with the signal from the upstream site propagating downstream in a nested catchment. Further, aeolian dust contributes to the solute chemistry of montane streams with potential impacts on water quality along shallow flow paths. Potential contaminants in these surface soils (e.g., Pb deposition in dust) may have significant impacts on water quality during snowmelt runoff.