Articles | Volume 19, issue 5
Research article
20 May 2015
Research article |  | 20 May 2015

Interacting effects of climate and agriculture on fluvial DOM in temperate and subtropical catchments

D. Graeber, G. Goyenola, M. Meerhoff, E. Zwirnmann, N. B. Ovesen, M. Glendell, J. Gelbrecht, F. Teixeira de Mello, I. González-Bergonzoni, E. Jeppesen, and B. Kronvang

Abstract. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is an important factor in aquatic ecosystems, which is involved in a large variety of biogeochemical and ecological processes, and recent literature suggests that it could be strongly affected by agriculture in different climates. Based on novel monitoring techniques, we investigated the interaction of climate and agriculture effects on DOM quantity and quality. To examine this, we took water samples over 2 years in two paired intensive and extensive farming catchments in each of Denmark (temperate climate) and Uruguay (subtropical climate). We measured dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (DON) concentrations and DOC and DON molecular fractions with size-exclusion chromatography. Moreover, we characterized DOM quality with absorbance and fluorescence measurements, as well as parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC). We also calculated the DOC and DON loads based on daily discharge measurements, as well as measured precipitation and air temperature. The fluvial DOM in the catchments in Uruguay was characterized by higher temporal variability of DOC and DON loads which were clearly to a higher temporal variability of precipitation and a DOM composition with rather plant-like character relative to the Danish catchments. Moreover, we found a consistently higher temporal variability of DOC and DON loads in the intensive farming catchments than in the extensive farming catchments, with highest temporal variability in the Uruguayan intensive farming catchment. Furthermore, the composition of DOM exported from the intensive farming catchments was consistently complex and always related to microbial processing in both Denmark and Uruguay. This was indicated by low C : N ratios, several spectroscopic DOM composition indices and PARAFAC fluorescence components. We propose that the consistent effect of intensive farming on DOM composition and the temporal variability of DOC and DON loads is related to similarities in the management of agriculture, which may have widescale implications for fluvial DOM composition, as well as related ecological processes and biogeochemical cycles.