Hydrological conditions control in situ DOM retention and release along a Mediterranean river

Uncertainties exist regarding the magnitude of in situ dissolved organic matter (DOM) processing in lotic systems. In addition, little is known about the effects of extreme hydrological events on in-stream DOM retention or release during downriver transport. This study quantified the net in-stream retention/release efficiencies (η) of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and its humic and protein-like fluorescent fractions along a Mediterranean river during drought, baseflow and flood conditions. High performance size exclusion chromatography was used to describe the apparent size distributions of the humic and protein-like DOM moieties. A snapshot mass balance allowed estimating the η values of DOC and humic and protein-like fractions. Significant DOM net retention (η < 0) was detected during the drought condition and the protein-like fraction was more retained than the humic-like fraction and bulk DOC. In addition, small substances were more efficiently retained than larger substances. DOC retention decreased under baseflow conditions, but it remained significant. The humic and protein-like net efficiencies exhibited high variability, but the net retention were not significant. From a longitudinal perspective, the entire fluvial corridor contributed net retention of DOC and humic and protein-like moieties net retention during drought condition. In contrast, net retention/release efficiencies exhibited spatial variability during baseflow condition. The flood preferentially mobilized large size DOM molecules and the fluvial corridor behaved as a homogeneous passive DOM (η = 0) conduit. This research highlights the relevance of hydrological extreme events on the magnitude of DOM retention/release mass balance and emphasizes the need to perform measurements during these conditions to quantify the impact of fluvial corridors on DOM fate and transport ​
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