The delivery of dissolved organic carbon from a forested hillslope to a headwater stream in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Mei, Y., G.M. Hornberger, L.A. Kaplan, J.D. Newbold, and A.K. Aufdenkampe. 2014. Water Resources Research 50(7):5774–5796.



Riparian soils, rich in organic carbon, act as a source of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to the adjacent stream, but the hydrologic factors that control the delivery of DOC are not well characterized. A mechanistic two-dimensional, variably saturated flow and reactive transport finite element model (FEM) was developed to explore both biodegradable DOC (BDOC) and refractory DOC (RDOC) delivery processes during storms for a hillslope transect in a southeastern Pennsylvania Piedmont watershed. The model indicated that DOC concentrations in outflow from a hillslope peaked on the falling limb of the discharge hydrograph, a temporal sequence consistent with a flushing hypothesis. Factors that control the lag time between the stream water peak discharge and peak DOC concentration were analyzed using a Monte Carlo simulation coupled with a multiple linear regression. The results are consistent with previous studies showing that the majority of DOC delivered to a stream during storms originates from the riparian zone. Further, the model suggests that the duration of the flood wave and hydraulic properties of the riparian soil play important roles in controlling the lag time between peak discharge and peak DOC concentration in outflow from a hillslope.