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Title: Organic matter cycling in a model restored wetland receiving complex effluent

Wetlands have been used to treat anthropogenic effluents for decades due to their intense biogeochemical processes that transform and uptake nutrients, organic matter, and toxins. Despite these known functions, we lack generalizable knowledge of effluent-derived dissolved organic matter (DOM) cycling in wetlands. Here, we quantify the cycling of DOM in one of Canada’s more economically important wetland complexes (Frank Lake, Alberta), restored to hydrologic permanence in the 1980s using urban and agro-industrial effluents. Optical analyses and PARAFAC (parallel factor analysis) modelling showed a clear compositional change from more bioavailable and protein-like DOM at effluent input sites to more aromatic and humic-like at the wetland outflow, likely due to DOM processing and inputs from marsh plants and wetland soils. Microbial incubations showed that effluent DOM was rapidly consumed, with the half-life of DOM increasing from as low as 35 days for effluent, to 462 days at the outflow, as a function of compositional shifts toward aromatic, humic-like material. Long-term averaged dissolved organic carbon (DOC) export was low compared to many wetlands (10.3 ± 2.0 g C m−2 yr−1). Consistent with predictions based on water residence time, our mass balance showed Frank Lake was a net source of DOM across all measured years, but shifted from a source to more » sink among wet and drought years that respectively shortened or lengthened the water residence and DOM processing times. Overall, Frank Lake processes and transforms effluent DOM, despite being a longer-term net source of DOM to downstream environments.

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Publication Date:
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p. 237-255
Springer Science + Business Media
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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