This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.
Carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions of particulate organic matter in four large river systems across the United States†
Article first published online: 25 MAY 2001
This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA. Published in 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Special Issue: Water Quality of Large US Rivers: Results from the US Geological Survey's National Stream Quality Accounting Network
Volume 15, Issue 7, pages 1301–1346, May 2001
How to Cite
Kendall, C., Silva, S. R. and Kelly, V. J. (2001), Carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions of particulate organic matter in four large river systems across the United States. Hydrol. Process., 15: 1301–1346. doi: 10.1002/hyp.216
- Issue published online: 25 MAY 2001
- Article first published online: 25 MAY 2001
- Manuscript Accepted: 15 AUG 2000
- Manuscript Received: 10 JUL 2000
- particulate organic matter;
- stable isotopes;
- C : N ratios;
Riverine particulate organic matter (POM) samples were collected bi-weekly to monthly from 40 sites in the Mississippi, Colorado, Rio Grande, and Columbia River Basins (USA) in 1996–97 and analysed for carbon and nitrogen stable isotopic compositions. These isotopic compositions and C : N ratios were used to identify four endmember sources of POM: plankton, fresh terrestrial plant material, aquatic plants, and soil organic material. This large-scale study also incorporated ancillary chemical and hydrologic data to refine and extend the interpretations of POM sources beyond the source characterizations that could be done solely with isotopic and elemental ratios. The ancillary data were especially useful for differentiating between seasonal changes in POM source materials and the effects of local nutrient sources and in-stream biogeochemical processes.
Average values of δ13C and C : N for all four river systems suggested that plankton is the dominant source of POM in these rivers, with higher percentages of plankton downstream of reservoirs. Although the temporal patterns in some rivers are complex, the low δ13C and C : N values in spring and summer probably indicate plankton blooms, whereas relatively elevated values in fall and winter are consistent with greater proportions of decaying aquatic vegetation and/or terrestrial material. Seasonal shifts in the δ13C of POM when the C : N remains relatively constant probably indicate changes in the relative rates of photosynthesis and respiration. Periodic inputs of plant detritus are suggested by C : N ratios >15, principally on the Columbia and Ohio Rivers. The δ15N and δ13C also reflect the importance of internal and external sources of dissolved carbon and nitrogen, and the degree of in-stream processing. Elevated δ15N values at some sites probably reflect inputs from sewage and/or animal waste. This information on the spatial and temporal variation in sources of POM in four major river systems should prove useful in future food web and nutrient transport studies. Published in 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.