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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Differential Trends in Iron Concentrations of Boreal Streams Linked to Catchment Characteristics

Skerlep, M.; Nehzati, S.; Sponseller, R. A.; Persson, P.; Laudon, H.; Kritzberg, E. S.


Increasing iron (Fe) concentrations have been reported for freshwaters across northern Europe over the last decades. This increase, together with elevated concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), leads to browning of freshwaters, which affects aquatic organisms, ecosystem functioning, biogeochemical cycles, and brings challenges to drinking water production. However, how such increasing trends in stream Fe concentrations reflect the contribution of different catchment sources remains poorly resolved. Here, we explored how catchment characteristics, that is, mires and coniferous soils, regulate spatial and temporal patterns of Fe in a boreal stream network. For this, we determined Fe speciation in riparian and mire soils, and studied temporal Fe dynamics in soil-water and stream-water over a span of 18 years. Positive Fe trends were found in the solution of the riparian soil, while no long-term trend was observed in the mire. These differences were reflected in stream-water, where three headwater streams dominated by coniferous cover also displayed positive Fe trends, whereas the mire dominated stream showed no trend. Surprisingly, the majority of higher order streams showed declining Fe trends, despite long-term increases in DOC. In addition, we found that an extreme drought event led to a prolonged release of Fe and DOC from the riparian soils, that could have long-term effects on stream Fe concentrations. Our results show that riparian forest soils can be major contributors to ongoing increases in freshwater Fe concentrations and that drought can further promote the release of Fe from organic soils.


iron; catchment; stream; riparian zone; mire; browning

Published in

Global Biogeochemical Cycles
2023, Volume: 37, number: 3, article number: e2022GB007484

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
    Soil Science

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