[Eoas-seminar] Oceanography Thesis Defense - Megan Behnke - March 4, 9am - 6067EOA

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Tue Feb 25 12:27:10 EST 2020

Title: Dissolved organic matter sources in glacierized watersheds delineated through compositional and carbon isotopic modeling
Major Professor: Rob Spencer

Abstract: Climate change is decreasing watershed glacial coverage throughout Alaska, impacting the biogeochemistry of downstream ecosystems. We collected streamwater fortnightly over the glacial runoff period from three streams of varying watershed glacier coverage (0-49%) and a subglacial outflow to assess how glacier recession impacts the relative contributions of glacier and terrestrial plant derived dissolved organic matter (DOM) inputs to streams. We show a decrease in the fraction of modern dissolved organic carbon (up to ~3,200 years old radiocarbon age) with increasing glacial meltwater contribution to streamflow. We use a dual isotopic mixing model (•13C and •14C) to quantify the relative contribution of terrestrial and glacial sources to streamwater DOM. The endmember contributions were further compared to DOM molecular compositional data from Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry to assess whether DOM composition can be linked to streamwater DOM source in watersheds with varying contributions of glacial runoff. This approach revealed the glacial fraction was positively correlated with percent relative abundance of heteroatom‑containing DOM molecular formulae, aliphatics, and peptide‑like formulae, while the terrestrial fraction was positively correlated with condensed aromatics and polyphenolics. These results provide information about how the retreat of mountain glaciers will impact the composition and thus biogeochemical role of DOM delivered to downstream ecosystems. Our findings highlight that combining a traditional isotopic mixing model and ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry data can provide novel insights into how changes in watershed landcover impact the source and chemical properties of streamwater DOM.

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