Bertuzzo, E., E.R. Hotchkiss, A. Argerich, J.S. Kominoski, D. Oviedo-Vargas, P. Savoy, R. Scarlett, D. von Schiller, and J.B. Heffernan. 2022. Limnology and Oceanography, early online access.
Respiration in streams is controlled by the timing, magnitude, and quality of organic matter (OM) inputs from internal primary production and external fluxes. Here, we estimated the contribution of different OM sources to seasonal, annual, and event-driven characteristics of whole-stream ecosystem respiration (ER) using an inverse modeling framework that accounts for possible time-lags between OM inputs and respiration. We modeled site-specific, dynamic OM stocks contributing to ER: autochthonous OM from gross primary production (GPP); allochthonous OM delivered during flow events; and seasonal pulses of leaf litter. OM stored in the sediment and dissolved organic matter (DOM) transported during baseflow were modeled as a stable stock contributing to baseline respiration. We applied this modeling framework to five streams with different catchment size, climate, and canopy cover, where multi-year time series of ER and environmental variables were available. Overall, the model explained between 53% and 74% of observed ER dynamics. Respiration of autochthonous OM tracked seasonal peaks in GPP in spring or summer. Increases in ER were often associated with high-flow events. Respiration associated with litter inputs was larger in smaller streams. Time lags between leaf inputs and respiration were longer than for other OM sources, likely due to lower biological reactivity. Model estimates of source-specific ER and OM stocks compared well with existing measures of OM stocks, inputs, and respiration or decomposition. Our modeling approach has the potential to expand the scale of comparative analyses of OM dynamics within and among freshwater ecosystems.