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  1. Toor, Gurpal S. (Ed.)
    Human agriculture, wastewater, and use of fossil fuels have saturated ecosystems with nitrogen and phosphorus, threatening biodiversity and human water security at a global scale. Despite efforts to reduce nutrient pollution, carbon and nutrient concentrations have increased or remained high in many regions. Here, we applied a new ecohydrological framework to ~12,000 water samples collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from streams and lakes across the contiguous U.S. to identify spatial and temporal patterns in nutrient concentrations and leverage (an indicator of flux). For the contiguous U.S. and within ecoregions, we quantified trends for sites sampled repeatedly from 2000 to 2019, the persistence of spatial patterns over that period, and the patch size of nutrient sources and sinks. While we observed various temporal trends across ecoregions, the spatial patterns of nutrient and carbon concentrations in streams were persistent across and within ecoregions, potentially because of historical nutrient legacies, consistent nutrient sources, and inherent differences in nutrient removal capacity for various ecosystems. Watersheds showed strong critical source area dynamics in that 2–8% of the land area accounted for 75% of the estimated flux. Variability in nutrient contribution was greatest in catchments smaller than 250 km 2 for most parameters. An ensemble of four machine learning models confirmed previously observed relationships between nutrient concentrations and a combination of land use and land cover, demonstrating how human activity and inherent nutrient removal capacity interactively determine nutrient balance. These findings suggest that targeted nutrient interventions in a small portion of the landscape could substantially improve water quality at continental scales. We recommend a dual approach of first prioritizing the reduction of nutrient inputs in catchments that exert disproportionate influence on downstream water chemistry, and second, enhancing nutrient removal capacity by restoring hydrological connectivity both laterally and vertically in stream networks. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
  3. Martínez-Yrízar, Angelina (Ed.)
    Climate change is causing larger wildfires and more extreme precipitation events in many regions. As these ecological disturbances increasingly coincide, they alter lateral fluxes of sediment, organic matter, and nutrients. Here, we report the stream chemistry response of watersheds in a semiarid region of Utah (USA) that were affected by a megafire followed by an extreme precipitation event in October 2018. We analyzed daily to hourly water samples at 10 stream locations from before the storm event until three weeks after its conclusion for suspended sediment, solute and nutrient concentrations, water isotopes, and dissolved organic matter concentration, optical properties, and reactivity. The megafire caused a ~2,000-fold increase in sediment flux and a ~6,000-fold increase in particulate carbon and nitrogen flux over the course of the storm. Unexpectedly, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration was 2.1-fold higher in burned watersheds, despite the decreased organic matter from the fire. DOC from burned watersheds was 1.3-fold more biodegradable and 2.0-fold more photodegradable than in unburned watersheds based on 28-day dark and light incubations. Regardless of burn status, nutrient concentrations were higher in watersheds with greater urban and agricultural land use. Likewise, human land use had a greater effect than megafire on apparent hydrological residence time, with rapid stormwater signals in urban and agricultural areas but a gradual stormwater pulse in areas without direct human influence. These findings highlight how megafires and intense rainfall increase short-term particulate flux and alter organic matter concentration and characteristics. However, in contrast with previous research, which has largely focused on burned-unburned comparisons in pristine watersheds, we found that direct human influence exerted a primary control on nutrient status. Reducing anthropogenic nutrient sources could therefore increase socioecological resilience of surface water networks to changing wildfire regimes. 
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  4. Abstract

    In Arctic catchments, bacterioplankton are dispersed through soils and streams, both of which freeze and thaw/flow in phase, seasonally. To characterize this dispersal and its potential impact on biogeochemistry, we collected bacterioplankton and measured stream physicochemistry during snowmelt and after vegetation senescence across multiple stream orders in alpine, tundra, and tundra‐dominated‐by‐lakes catchments. In all catchments, differences in community composition were associated with seasonal thaw, then attachment status (i.e. free floating or sediment associated), and then stream order. Bacterioplankton taxonomic diversity and richness were elevated in sediment‐associated fractions and in higher‐order reaches during snowmelt. FamiliesChthonomonadaceae,Pyrinomonadaceae, andXiphinematobacteraceaewere abundantly different across seasons, whileFlavobacteriaceaeandMicroscillaceaewere abundantly different between free‐floating and sediment‐associated fractions. Physicochemical data suggested there was high iron (Fe+) production (alpine catchment); Fe+production and chloride (Cl) removal (tundra catchment); and phosphorus (SRP) removal and ammonium (NH4+) production (lake catchment). In tundra landscapes, these ‘hot spots’ of Fe+production and Clremoval accompanied shifts in species richness, while SRP promoted the antecedent community. Our findings suggest that freshet increases bacterial dispersal from headwater catchments to receiving catchments, where bacterioplankton‐mineral relations stabilized communities in free‐flowing reaches, but bacterioplankton‐nutrient relations stabilized those punctuated by lakes.

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  5. Abstract

    Riverine fluxes of carbon and inorganic nutrients are increasing in virtually all large permafrost-affected rivers, indicating major shifts in Arctic landscapes. However, it is currently difficult to identify what is causing these changes in nutrient processing and flux because most long-term records of Arctic river chemistry are from small, headwater catchments draining <200 km2or from large rivers draining >100,000 km2. The interactions of nutrient sources and sinks across these scales are what ultimately control solute flux to the Arctic Ocean. In this context, we performed spatially-distributed sampling of 120 subcatchments nested within three Arctic watersheds spanning alpine, tundra, and glacial-lake landscapes in Alaska. We found that the dominant spatial scales controlling organic carbon and major nutrient concentrations was 3–30 km2, indicating a continuum of diffuse and discrete sourcing and processing dynamics. These patterns were consistent seasonally, suggesting that relatively fine-scale landscape patches drive solute generation in this region of the Arctic. These network-scale empirical frameworks could guide and benchmark future Earth system models seeking to represent lateral and longitudinal solute transport in rapidly changing Arctic landscapes.

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  6. null (Ed.)
  7. Abstract

    Climate change is creating widespread ecosystem disturbance across the permafrost zone, including a rapid increase in the extent and severity of tundra wildfire. The expansion of this previously rare disturbance has unknown consequences for lateral nutrient flux from terrestrial to aquatic environments. Lateral loss of nutrients could reduce carbon uptake and slow recovery of already nutrient‐limited tundra ecosystems. To investigate the effects of tundra wildfire on lateral nutrient export, we analyzed water chemistry in and around the 10‐year‐old  Anaktuvuk River fire scar in northern Alaska. We collected water samples from 21 burned and 21 unburned watersheds during snowmelt, at peak growing season, and after plant senescence in 2017 and 2018. After a decade of ecosystem recovery, aboveground biomass had recovered in burned watersheds, but overall carbon and nitrogen remained ~20% lower, and the active layer remained ~10% deeper. Despite lower organic matter stocks, dissolved organic nutrients were substantially elevated in burned watersheds, with higher flow‐weighted concentrations of organic carbon (25% higher), organic nitrogen (59% higher), organic phosphorus (65% higher), and organic sulfur (47% higher). Geochemical proxies indicated greater interaction with mineral soils in watersheds with surface subsidence, but optical analysis and isotopes suggested that recent plant growth, not mineral soil, was the main source of organic nutrients in burned watersheds. Burned and unburned watersheds had similar δ15N‐NO3, indicating that exported nitrogen was of preburn origin (i.e., not recently fixed). Lateral nitrogen flux from burned watersheds was 2‐ to 10‐fold higher than rates of background nitrogen fixation and atmospheric deposition estimated in this area. These findings indicate that wildfire in Arctic tundra can destabilize nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur previously stored in permafrost via plant uptake and leaching. This plant‐mediated nutrient loss could exacerbate terrestrial nutrient limitation after disturbance or serve as an important nutrient release mechanism during succession.

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  8. Abstract

    Permafrost degradation is delivering bioavailable dissolved organic matter (DOM) and inorganic nutrients to surface water networks. While these permafrost subsidies represent a small portion of total fluvial DOM and nutrient fluxes, they could influence food webs and net ecosystem carbon balance via priming or nutrient effects that destabilize background DOM. We investigated how addition of biolabile carbon (acetate) and inorganic nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) affected DOM decomposition with 28‐day incubations. We incubated late‐summer stream water from 23 locations nested in seven northern or high‐altitude regions in Asia, Europe, and North America. DOM loss ranged from 3% to 52%, showing a variety of longitudinal patterns within stream networks. DOM optical properties varied widely, but DOM showed compositional similarity based on Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT‐ICR MS) analysis. Addition of acetate and nutrients decreased bulk DOM mineralization (i.e., negative priming), with more negative effects on biodegradable DOM but neutral or positive effects on stable DOM. Unexpectedly, acetate and nutrients triggered breakdown of colored DOM (CDOM), with median decreases of 1.6% in the control and 22% in the amended treatment. Additionally, the uptake of added acetate was strongly limited by nutrient availability across sites. These findings suggest that biolabile DOM and nutrients released from degrading permafrost may decrease background DOM mineralization but alter stoichiometry and light conditions in receiving waterbodies. We conclude that priming and nutrient effects are coupled in northern aquatic ecosystems and that quantifying two‐way interactions between DOM properties and environmental conditions could resolve conflicting observations about the drivers of DOM in permafrost zone waterways.

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