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Fire reduces riverine DOC concentration draining a watershed and alters post-fire DOC recovery patterns...

by Xinyuan Wei
Publication Type
Journal Name
Environmental Research Letters
Publication Date
Page Numbers
024022 to 024034

The loading of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from soils to inland waters and ultimate transport to the ocean is a critical flux pathway in the terrestrial biosphere carbon cycle. Fires can significantly affect this flux through biogeochemical processes related to oxidation and mobilization of DOC in the soil. Therefore, in order to accurately estimate and model terrestrial carbon storage and export to the marine environment, we need to better understand the effects of fire on DOC flux. In this analysis, we compiled available observational data sets from seven watersheds across the conterminous United States generally spanning the years 1999–2019. We used these data sets to examine the effects of fire on riverine DOC concentration draining a watershed to study both the immediate impacts and the post-fire recovery patterns. Our results suggest that these fires result in an immediate decrease in riverine DOC concentration draining the watershed by 26 ± 15%, and the time required for DOC concentrations to recover to pre-fire levels was estimated to be, on average, approximately 9 months. During recovery, DOC concentration was 24 ± 11% lower than the long-term average for the watershed. In addition, the larger the proportion of the watershed that burned, the greater the concentration decrease and the longer the time period for post-fire recovery.