Anthropogenic landcover impacts fluvial dissolved organic matter composition in the Upper Mississippi River Basin

Derrick Vaughn, Anne M. Kellerman, Kimberly P. Wickland, Robert G. Striegl, David C. Podgorski, Jon R. Hawkings, Jaap H. Nienhuis, Mark M. Dornblaser, Edward G. Stets, Robert G.M. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Landcover changes have altered the natural carbon cycle; however, most landcover studies focus on either forest conversion to agriculture or urban, rarely both. We present differences in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and dissolved organic matter (DOM) molecular composition within Upper Mississippi River Basin low order streams and rivers draining one of three dominant landcovers (forest, agriculture, and urban). Streams draining forest and urban landcovers have greater DOC concentrations, likely driven by differences in carbon sourcing, microbial processing, and soil disturbance. Using Fourier transform-ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry, 24% of assigned molecular formulae are common across all landcovers. Relative abundances of N-,S- heteroatomic formulae (CHON, CHOS, CHONS) are higher for agricultural and urban streams, with agricultural stream DOM having more N-containing formulae compared to urban stream DOM, which has more S-containing formulae. Higher N-,S- heteroatomic formulae abundance, along with enrichment in aliphatic, N-aliphatic, and highly unsaturated and phenolic (low O/C) compound categories within agricultural and urban stream DOM are likely to result from increased anthropogenic inputs, autochthonous production, and microbial processing associated with agricultural and urban impacts. Reduced N-,S- heteroatomic formulae abundances in forested stream DOM, along with enrichments in condensed aromatics, polyphenolics, and highly unsaturated phenolic (high O/C) compound categories, likely reflect greater contributions from surrounding organic-rich forest soil and vegetation. Overall, landcover change from forested to agriculture lowers DOC concentrations and changes from forested to agriculture or urban increases autochthonous, and presumably more biolabile, DOM contributions with ramifications for stream biogeochemical cycling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117–141
Number of pages25
Issue number1
Early online date7 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Agriculture
  • Dissolved organic carbon
  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Landcover
  • Urbanization


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