The glacial–terrestrial–fluvial pathway: A multiparametrical analysis of spatiotemporal dissolved organic matter variation in three catchments of Lake Nam Co, Tibetan Plateau

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  • Philipp Maurischat
  • Lukas Lehnert
  • Vinzenz H.D. Zerres
  • Tuong Vi Tran
  • Karsten Kalbitz
  • Rinnan, Åsmund
  • Xiao Gang Li
  • Tsechoe Dorji
  • Georg Guggenberger

The Tibetan Plateau (TP) is a sensitive alpine environment of global importance, being Asia's water tower, featuring vast ice masses and comprising the world's largest alpine grasslands. Intensified land-use and pronounced global climate change have put pressure on the environment of the TP. We studied the tempo-spatial variability of dissolved organic matter (DOM) to better understand the fluxes of nutrients and energy from terrestrial to aquatic ecosystems in the TP. We used a multiparametrical approach, based on inorganic water chemistry, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration, dissolved organic matter (DOM) characteristics (chromophoric DOM, fluorescence DOM and δ13C of DOM) in stream samples of three catchments of the Nam Co watershed and the lake itself. Satellite based plant cover estimates were used to link biogeochemical data to the structure and degradation of vegetation zones in the catchments. Catchment streams showed site-specific DOM signatures inherited from glaciers, wetlands, groundwater, and Kobresia pygmaea pastures. By comparing stream and lake samples, we found DOM processing and unification by loss of chromophoric DOM signatures and a change towards an autochthonous source of lake DOM. DOM diversity was largest in the headwaters of the catchments and heavily modified in terminal aquatic systems. Seasonality was characterized by a minor influence of freshet and by a very strong impact of the Indian summer monsoon on DOM composition, with more microbial DOM sources. The DOM of Lake Nam Co differed chemically from stream water samples, indicating the lake to be a quasi-marine environment in regards to the degree of chemical modification and sources of DOM. DOM proved to be a powerful marker to elucidate consequences of land use and climatic change on biogeochemical processes in High Asian alpine ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156542
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Alpine pastures, Dissolved organic carbon, Fluorescence, PARAFAC, Third pole environment, Tibetan plateau

ID: 317502579