Sea spray influences water chemical composition of Mediterranean semi-natural springs

Fernández-Martínez M., Margalef O., Sayol F., Asensio D., Bagaria G., Corbera J., Sabater F., Domene X., Preece C. (2019) Sea spray influences water chemical composition of Mediterranean semi-natural springs. Catena. 173: 414-423.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.catena.2018.10.035

Resum:

Sea spray aerosol (SSA) is responsible for the large-scale transfer of particles from the sea to the land, leading to significant deposition of a range of ions, predominantly Na+, K+, Mg2+ Ca2+, and Cl−. Up to now, there has been little research into the effects of SSA on spring water chemistry. Therefore, we sampled 303 semi-natural springs across Catalonia (NE Iberian Peninsula) and analysed the concentrations of 20 different ions and elements, and determined the impact of SSA (using distance to the coast as a proxy) as well as climate, lithology and human disturbances. We found that distance to the coast had a clear effect on the water chemical composition of springs, while accounting for potentially confounding factors such as anthropogenic water pollution (nitrate, NO3 −), differences in lithology and annual rainfall. Our results showed that springs located closer to the coast had higher Cl−, SO4 2−, Na+, Mg2+, K+ and Ca2+ concentrations than those of springs located further away. Precipitation was generally negatively correlated with the concentration of almost all elements analysed. The concentration of NO3 − increased with distance to the coast, concurrently with farming activities, located mainly inland in the study area. These results demonstrate that SSA has an important effect on the groundwater of coastal zones, up to a distance of around 70 km from the coastline. This analysis reveals the main natural and human processes that influence spring water chemistry in this Mediterranean region, information that could be helpful in similar regions for ecological studies, water quality policies, and for the improvement of predictions in the current context of global change. © 2018 Elsevier B.V.

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Experimental evidence reveals impact of drought periods on dissolved organic matter quality and ecosystem metabolism in subalpine streams

Harjung A., Ejarque E., Battin T., Butturini A., Sabater F., Stadler M., Schelker J. (2019) Experimental evidence reveals impact of drought periods on dissolved organic matter quality and ecosystem metabolism in subalpine streams. Limnology and Oceanography. 64: 46-60.
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Doi: 10.1002/lno.11018

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Subalpine streams are predicted to experience lower summer discharge following climate change and water extractions. In this study, we aimed to understand how drought periods impact dissolved organic matter (DOM) processing and ecosystem metabolism of subalpine streams. We mimicked a gradient of drought conditions in stream-side flumes and evaluated implications of drought on DOM composition, gross primary production, and ecosystem respiration. Our experiment demonstrated a production and release of DOM from biofilms and leaf litter decomposition at low discharges, increasing dissolved organic carbon concentrations in stream water by up to 50%. Absorbance and fluorescence properties suggested that the released DOM was labile for microbial degradation. Dissolved organic carbon mass balances revealed a high contribution of internal processes to the carbon budget during low flow conditions. The flumes with low discharge were transient sinks of atmospheric CO2 during the first 2 weeks of drought. After this autotrophic phase, the metabolic balance of these flumes turned heterotrophic, suggesting a nutrient limitation for primary production, while respiration remained high. Overall our experimental findings suggest that droughts in subalpine streams will enhance internal carbon cycling by transiently increasing primary production and more permanently respiration as the drought persists. We propose that the duration of a drought period combined with inorganic nutrient availability are key variables that determine if more carbon is respired in situ or exported downstream. © 2018 The Authors. Limnology and Oceanography published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.

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Responses of microbial activity in hyporheic pore water to biogeochemical changes in a drying headwater stream

Harjung A., Perujo N., Butturini A., Romaní A.M., Sabater F. (2019) Responses of microbial activity in hyporheic pore water to biogeochemical changes in a drying headwater stream. Freshwater Biology. 64: 735-749.
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Doi: 10.1111/fwb.13258

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Microbial heterotrophic activity is a major driver of nutrient and organic matter processing in the hyporheic zone of headwater streams. Additionally, the hyporheic zone might provide refuge for microbes when surface flow ceases during drought events. We investigated chemical (organic and inorganic nutrients) and microbiological parameters (bacterial cell concentration, live–dead ratios, and extracellular enzyme activities) of surface and interstitial pore water in a period of progressive surface-hyporheic disconnection due to summer drying. The special situation of the chosen study reach, where groundwater mixing is impeded by the bedrock forming a natural channel filled with sediment, allowed as to study the transformation of these parameters along hyporheic flow paths. The chemical composition of the hyporheic pore water reflected the connectivity with the surface water, as expressed in the availability of nitrate and oxygen. Conversely, microbiological parameters in all hyporheic locations were different from the surface waters, suggesting that the microbial activity in the water changes rapidly once the water enters the hyporheic zone. This feature was principally manifested in higher live–dead ratios and lower leucine aminopeptidase (an activity related to nitrogen acquisition) in the hyporheic pore waters. Overall, bacterial cell concentration and extracellular enzyme activities increased along hyporheic flow paths, with a congruent decrease in inorganic nutrients and dissolved organic matter quantity and apparent molecular size. Our findings show two important functions of the hyporheic zone during drought: (1) deeper (−50 cm) water-saturated layers can act as a refuge for microbial activity; and (2) the hyporheic zone shows high rates of carbon and nitrogen turnover when water residence times are longer during drought. These rates might be even enhanced by an increase in living microbes in the remaining moist locations of the hyporheic zone. © 2019 The Authors. Freshwater Biology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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Riparian forest transpiration under the current and projected Mediterranean climate: Effects on soil water and nitrate uptake

Poblador S., Thomas Z., Rousseau-Gueutin P., Sabaté S., Sabater F. (2019) Riparian forest transpiration under the current and projected Mediterranean climate: Effects on soil water and nitrate uptake. Ecohydrology. 12: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1002/eco.2043

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Vegetation plays a key role in riparian area functioning by controlling water and nitrate (N─NO3 −) transfers to streams. We investigated how spatial heterogeneity modifies the influence of vegetation transpiration on soil water and N─NO3 − balances in the vadose soil of a Mediterranean riparian forest. On the basis of field data, we simulated water flow and N─NO3 − transport in three riparian zones (i.e., near-stream, intermediate, and hillslope) using HYDRUS-1D model. We investigated spatiotemporal patterns across the riparian area over a 3-year period and future years using an IPCC/CMIP5 climate projection for the Mediterranean region. Potential evapotranspiration was partitioned between evaporation and transpiration to estimate transpiration rates at the area. Denitrification in the forest was negligible, thus N─NO3 − removal was only considered through plant uptake. For the three riparian zones, the model successfully predicted field soil moisture (θ). The near-stream zone exchanged larger volumes of water and supported higher θ and transpiration rates (666 ± 75 mm) than the other two riparian zones. Total water fluxes, θ, and transpiration rates decreased near the intermediate (536 ± 46 mm transpired) and hillslope zones (406 ± 26 mm transpired), suggesting that water availability was restricted due to deeper groundwater. Transpiration strongly decreased θ and soil N─NO3 − in the hillslope and intermediate zones. Our climate projections highlight the importance of groundwater availability and indicate that soil N─NO3 − would be expected to increase due to changes in plant-root uptake. Lower water availability in the hillslope zone may reduce the effectiveness of N─NO3 − removal in the riparian area, increasing the risk of excess N─NO3 − leaching into the stream. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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