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Importance of the vegetation-groundwater-stream continuum to understand transformation of biogenic carbon in aquatic systems – A case study based on a pine-maize comparison in a lowland sandy watershed (Landes de Gascogne, SW France)

Abstract : During land-aquatic transfer, carbon (C) and inorganic nutrients (IN) are transformed in soils, groundwater, and at the groundwater-surface water interface as well as in stream channels and stream sediments. However, processes and factors controlling these transfers and transformations are not well constrained, particularly with respect to land use effect. We compared C and IN concentrations in shallow groundwater and first-order streams of a sandy lowland catchment dominated by two types of land use: pine forest and maize cropland. Contrary to forest groundwater, crop groundwater exhibited oxic conditions all-year round as a result of higher evapotranspiration and better lateral drainage that decreased the water table below the organic-rich soil horizon, prevented the leaching of soil-generated dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in groundwater, and thus limited consumption of dissolved oxygen (O2). In crop groundwater, oxic conditions inhibited denitrification and methanogenesis resulting in high nitrate (NO3−; on average 1140 ± 485 μmol L−1) and low methane (CH4; 40 ± 25 nmol L−1) concentrations. Conversely, anoxic conditions in forest groundwater led to lower NO3− (25 ± 40 μmol L−1) and higher CH4 (1770 ± 1830 nmol L−1) concentrations. The partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2; 30,650 ± 11,590 ppmv) in crop groundwater was significantly lower than in forest groundwater (50,630 ± 26,070 ppmv), and was apparently caused by the deeper water table delaying downward diffusion of soil CO2 to the water table. In contrast, pCO2 was not significantly different in crop (4480 ± 2680 ppmv) and forest (4900 ± 4500 ppmv) streams, suggesting faster degassing in forest streams resulting from greater water turbulence. Although NO3−concentrations indicated that denitrification occurred in riparian-forest groundwater, crop streams nevertheless exhibited important signs of spring and summer eutrophication such as the development of macrophytes. Stream eutrophication favored development of anaerobic conditions in crop stream sediments, as evidenced by increased ammonia (NH4+) and CH4 in stream waters and concomitant decreased in NO3− concentrations as a result of sediment denitrification. In crop streams, dredging and erosion of streambed sediments during winter sustained high concentration of particulate organic C, NH4+ and CH4. In forest streams, dissolved iron (Fe2+), NH4+ and CH4 were negatively correlated with O2 reflecting the gradual oxygenation of stream water and associated oxidations of Fe2+, NH4+ and CH4. The results overall showed that forest groundwater behaved as source of CO2 and CH4 to streams, the intensity depending on the hydrological connectivity among soils, groundwater, and streams. CH4 production was prevented in cropland in soils and groundwater, however crop groundwater acted as a source of CO2 to streams (but less so than forest groundwater). Conversely, in streams, pCO2 was not significantly affected by land use while CH4 production was enhanced by cropland. At the catchment scale, this study found substantial biogeochemical heterogeneity in C and IN concentrations between forest and crop waters, demonstrating the importance of including the full vegetation-groundwater-stream continuum when estimating land-water fluxes of C (and nitrogen) and attempting to understand their spatial and temporal dynamics.
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Loris Deirmendjian, Pierre Anschutz, Christian Morel, Alain Mollier, Laurent Augusto, et al.. Importance of the vegetation-groundwater-stream continuum to understand transformation of biogenic carbon in aquatic systems – A case study based on a pine-maize comparison in a lowland sandy watershed (Landes de Gascogne, SW France). Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2019, 661, pp.613-629. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.01.152⟩. ⟨hal-02104943⟩



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