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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2018-26
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 10 Apr 2018

Research article | 10 Apr 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Geomorphic regulation of floodplain soil organic carbon concentration in watersheds of the Rocky and Cascade Mountains, USA

Daniel N. Scott and Ellen E. Wohl Daniel N. Scott and Ellen E. Wohl
  • Department of Geosciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 80521, USA

Abstract. Mountain rivers have shown the potential for high organic carbon (OC) storage in terms of retaining OC-rich soil. We characterize valley bottom morphology, floodplain soil, and vegetation in two disparate mountain river basins: the Middle Fork Snoqualmie, in the Cascade Mountains, and the Big Sandy, in the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains. We use this dataset to examine variability in OC concentration between these basins as well as within them, at multiple spatial scales. We find that although there are some differences between basins, much of the variability in OC concentration is due to local factors, such as soil moisture and valley bottom geometry. From this, we conclude that local factors likely play a dominant role in regulating OC concentration in valley bottoms, and that inter-basin trends in climate or vegetation characteristics may not translate directly to trends in OC storage. We also use analysis of OC concentration and soil texture by depth to infer that OC is input to floodplain soils mainly by decaying vegetation, not overbank deposition of fine, OC-bearing sediment. Geomorphology and hydrology play strong roles in determining the spatial distribution of soil OC in mountain river corridors.

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Daniel N. Scott and Ellen E. Wohl
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Daniel N. Scott and Ellen E. Wohl
Daniel N. Scott and Ellen E. Wohl
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Short summary
Mountain rivers play an important role in storing organic carbon (OC) on the landscape. We use field sampling to quantify OC concentrations in floodplain soils of two disparate mountain river basins. We find that local valley geometry and hydrology are dominant controls on OC concentration. This implies that OC concentration cannot be predicted using consistent, downstream trends. Instead, geomorphology must be accounted for to understand the spatial distribution of OC in river basins.
Mountain rivers play an important role in storing organic carbon (OC) on the landscape. We use...
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