The frequency and magnitude of extreme events are expected to increase in the future, yet little is known about effects of such events on ecosystem structure and function. We examined how extreme precipitation events affect exports of terrestrial dissolved organic carbon (t-DOC) from watersheds to lakes as well as in-lake heterotrophy in three north-temperate lakes. Extreme precipitation events induced large influxes of t-DOC to our lakes, accounting for 45–58% of the seasonal t-DOC load. These large influxes of t-DOC influenced lake metabolism, resulting in lake net heterotrophy following 67% of the extreme precipitation events across all lakes. Hydrologic residence time (HRT) was negatively related to t-DOC load and heterotrophy; lakes with short HRT had higher t-DOC loads and greater net heterotrophy. The fraction of t-DOC mineralized within each lake following extreme precipitation events generally exhibited a positive relationship with lake HRT, similar to the previous studies of fractions mineralized at annual and supra-annual time scales. Event-associated turnover rate of t-DOC was higher than what is typically reported from laboratory studies and modeling exercises and was also negatively related to lake HRT. This study demonstrates that extreme precipitation events are ‘hot moments’ of carbon load, export, and turnover in lakes and that lake-specific characteristics (for example, HRT) interact with climatic patterns to set rates of important lake carbon fluxes.
Ecosystems – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 2, 2016
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