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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Contrasting responses in dissolved organic carbon to extreme climate events from adjacent boreal landscapes in Northern Sweden

Tiwari, Tejshree; Sponseller, Ryan A.; Laudon, Hjalmar


The ongoing pressures of climate change, as expressed by the increased intensity, duration, and frequency of temperature and precipitation events, threatens the storage of carbon in northern latitudes. One key concern is how these events will affect the production, mobilization, and export of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), the main form of aquatic carbon export in these regions. In this study, we retrospectively show contrasting effects of climate extremes over 23 years on two adjacent boreal catchments, one dominated by forest cover and the other draining a mire (wetland), despite experiencing the same extreme climate events. During the peak snowmelt, DOC concentrations ranged from 20 to 33 mg l(-1) in the forest catchment and 10-28 mg l(-1) in the mire catchment respectively, highlighting large inter-annual variation in the springtime hydrologicCexport at both sites. Weused climate and discharge variables to predict this variation, and found that DOC from the forested catchment, which is derived largely from riparian soils, had the highest concentrations following cold summers, dry autumns, and winters with high precipitation. By contrast, in the mire outlet, where DOC is primarily derived from decomposing peat, the highest DOC concentrations in the spring followed cold/dry winters and dry summers. Our results indicate that processes regulating stream DOC concentrations during spring in both catchments were dependent on both temperature and precipitation in multiple seasons. Together, these patterns suggest that DOC responses to climatic extremes are complex and generate variable patterns in springtime concentrations that are strongly dependent upon landscape context.


extreme climate events; boreal streams; peatland; boreal forest; climate change; water quality; dissolve organic carbon

Published in

Environmental Research Letters
2019, volume: 14, number: 8, article number: 084007

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Sponseller, Ryan
Umeå University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water
SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science
Soil Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)