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  1. Abstract

    Elevated salt concentrations in streams draining developed watersheds are well documented, but the effects of hydrologic variability and the role of groundwater in surface water salinization are poorly understood. To characterize these effects, we use long‐term data (12–19 yr) and high‐frequency specific conductance (SPC) data collected from 13 streams across New Hampshire, USA. Concentration–discharge (CQ) relationships for chloride (Cl) derived from high‐frequency SPC showed distinct seasonal variability. Diluting behavior was common, but flushing behavior occurred in autumn and winter, suggesting that both groundwater and surface runoff contribute salts to streams. Long‐term data show that although extreme flood events initially reduced salt concentrations in groundwater and rural streams, concentrations recovered to preflood conditions in about a decade. Chronic Clexceedances occurred in urban streams during all seasons. This research suggests that variation in stream flow, extreme events and application of deicing agents play a role in freshwater salinization.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Ethical guidelines have provided a cornerstone for morally appropriate research on human or other vertebrate animal subjects since at least 1945. By contrast, although there are environmental impacts associated with all science research activities (including field, laboratory, and computational projects), no comprehensive guiding framework to determine environmentally responsible research practices has been proposed. Drawing from existing models within social, medical, and animal sciences, we propose a framework for explicitly incorporating environmentally focused ethics into scientific research. The Environmental Responsibility 5‐R Framework (ER5F) is centered around Recognition, Refinement, Reduction, Replacement, and Restoration. ER5F starts with Recognizing that research can have environmental consequences, while each subsequent “R” serves as an opportunity for acknowledging, evaluating, and mitigating the environmental impacts of scientific research. These R's include: Refining research questions, Reducing the resources and energy consumed, Replacing materials with sustainable options and altering methods, and in the case of field research, Restoring an environment to mitigate any harm done. By introducing this novel and approachable framework, we strive to promote enhanced awareness across the entire scientific community by encouraging researchers to recognize their responsibility and identify potential mitigation opportunities for the environmental consequences of their research activities. We affirm that in doing so, scientists can more effectively balance the dual goals of maximizing their novel research outputs while minimizing possible harm to the environment.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Atmospheric deposition of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to terrestrial ecosystems is a small, but rarely studied component of the global carbon (C) cycle. Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and organic particulates are the sources of atmospheric C and deposition represents a major pathway for the removal of organic C from the atmosphere. Here, we evaluate the spatial and temporal patterns of DOC deposition using 70 data sets at least one year in length ranging from 40° south to 66° north latitude. Globally, the median DOC concentration in bulk deposition was 1.7 mg L−1. The DOC concentrations were significantly higher in tropical (<25°) latitudes compared to temperate (>25°) latitudes. DOC deposition was significantly higher in the tropics because of both higher DOC concentrations and precipitation. Using the global median or latitudinal specific DOC concentrations leads to a calculated global deposition of 202 or 295 Tg C yr−1respectively. Many sites exhibited seasonal variability in DOC concentration. At temperate sites, DOC concentrations were higher during the growing season; at tropical sites, DOC concentrations were higher during the dry season. Thirteen of the thirty‐four long‐term (>10 years) data sets showed significant declines in DOC concentration over time with the others showing no significant change. Based on the magnitude and timing of the various sources of organic C to the atmosphere, biogenic VOCs likely explain the latitudinal pattern and the seasonal pattern at temperate latitudes while decreases in anthropogenic emissions are the most likely explanation for the declines in DOC concentration.

     
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  4. Abstract

    We examined how climate variability affects the mobilization of material from six watersheds. We analyzed one to seven years of high‐frequency sensor data from a temperate ecosystem and a tropical rainforest. We applied a windowed analysis to correlate concentration‐discharge (C‐Q) behavior with climate anomalies, providing insight into how hydrological and biogeochemical processes change in response to climate variability. Positive precipitation anomalies homogenized the C‐Q responses for dissolved organic matter, nitrate, specific conductance and turbidity, indicating that hydrological processes dominate the C‐Q signal and watersheds act as “conveyor belts” of material. In contrast, drier and warmer conditions led to C‐Q behavior associated with variation in solute concentration, suggesting that biogeochemical processes are a primary control on solute export and their response to flow. Results indicate that climate variability can move watersheds along a continuum from transporter‐to‐transformer of biologically active solutes and responses can potentially vary by biome.

     
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  5. Abstract

    Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (DON) are important energy and nutrient sources for aquatic ecosystems. In many northern temperate, freshwater systems DOC has increased in the past 50 years. Less is known about how changes in DOC may vary across latitudes, and whether changes in DON track those of DOC. Here, we present long‐term DOC and DON data from 74 streams distributed across seven sites in biomes ranging from the tropics to northern boreal forests with varying histories of atmospheric acid deposition. For each stream, we examined the temporal trends of DOC and DON concentrations and DOC:DON molar ratios. While some sites displayed consistent positive or negative trends in stream DOC and DON concentrations, changes in direction or magnitude were inconsistent at regional or local scales. DON trends did not always track those of DOC, though DOC:DON ratios increased over time for ~30% of streams. Our results indicate that the dissolved organic matter (DOM) pool is experiencing fundamental changes due to the recovery from atmospheric acid deposition. Changes in DOC:DON stoichiometry point to a shifting energy‐nutrient balance in many aquatic ecosystems. Sustained changes in the character of DOM can have major implications for stream metabolism, biogeochemical processes, food webs, and drinking water quality (including disinfection by‐products). Understanding regional and global variation in DOC and DON concentrations is important for developing realistic models and watershed management protocols to effectively target mitigation efforts aimed at bringing DOM flux and nutrient enrichment under control.

     
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  6. Abstract

    Synthesis research in ecology and environmental science improves understanding, advances theory, identifies research priorities, and supports management strategies by linking data, ideas, and tools. Accelerating environmental challenges increases the need to focus synthesis science on the most pressing questions. To leverage input from the broader research community, we convened a virtual workshop with participants from many countries and disciplines to examine how and where synthesis can address key questions and themes in ecology and environmental science in the coming decade. Seven priority research topics emerged: (1) diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ), (2) human and natural systems, (3) actionable and use‐inspired science, (4) scale, (5) generality, (6) complexity and resilience, and (7) predictability. Additionally, two issues regarding the general practice of synthesis emerged: the need for increased participant diversity and inclusive research practices; and increased and improved data flow, access, and skill‐building. These topics and practices provide a strategic vision for future synthesis in ecology and environmental science.

     
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  7. Abstract Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is a heterogeneous mixture of organic compounds that is produced through both microbial degradation and abiotic leaching of solid phase organic matter, and by a wide range of metabolic processes in algae and higher plants. DOM is ubiquitous throughout the hydrologic cycle and plays an important role in watershed management for drinking water supply as well as many aspects of aquatic ecology and geochemistry. Due to its wide-ranging effects in natural waters and analytical challenges, the focal research questions regarding DOM have varied since the 1920s. A standard catchment-scale model has emerged to describe the environmental controls on DOM concentrations. Modest concentrations of DOM are found in atmospheric deposition, large increases occur in throughfall and shallow soil flow paths, and variable concentrations in surface waters occur largely as a result of the extent to which hydrologic flow paths encounter deeper mineral soils, wetlands or shallow organic-rich riparian soils. Both production and consumption of DOM occur in surface waters but appear to frequently balance, resulting in relatively constant concentrations with distance downstream in most streams and rivers. Across biomes the concentration and composition of DOM in flowing waters is driven largely by soil processes or direct inputs to channels, but high levels can be found in streams and rivers from the tropics to the poles. Seven central challenges and opportunities in the study of DOM should frame ongoing research. These include maintaining or establishing long-term records of changes in concentrations and fluxes over time, capitalizing on the use of sensors to describe short-term DOM dynamics in aquatic systems, integrating the full carbon cycle into understanding of watershed and aquatic DOM dynamics, understanding the role of DOM in evasion of greenhouse gases from inland waters, unraveling the enigma of dissolved organic nitrogen, documenting gross versus net DOM fluxes, and moving beyond an emphasis on functional ecological significance to understanding the evolutionary significance of DOM in a wide range of environments. 
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