Stormﬂow dynamics of dissolved organic carbon and total dissolved nitrogen in a small urban watershed
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We examined patterns of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) loading to a small urban stream during baseflow and stormflow. We hypothesized that lower DOC and TDN contributions from impervious surfaces would dilute natural hydrologic flowpath (i.e., riparian) contributions during storm events in an urban watershed, resulting in lower concentrations of DOC and TDN during storms. We tested these hypotheses in a small urban watershed in Portland, Oregon, over a 3-month period during the spring of 2003. We compared baseflow and stormflow chemistry using Mann–Whitney tests (significant at p<0.05). We also applied a mass balance to the stream to compare the relative significance of impervious surface contributions versus riparian contributions of DOC and TDN. Results showed a significant increase in stream DOC concentrations during stormflows (median baseflow DOC = 2.00 mg l−1 vs. median stormflow DOC = 3.46 mg l−1). TDN streamwater concentrations, however, significantly decreased with stormflow (median baseflow TDN = 0.75 mg l−1 vs. median stormflow TDN = 0.56 mg l−1). During storms, remnant riparian areas contributed 70–74% of DOC export and 38–35% of TDN export to the stream. The observed pattern of increased DOC concentrations during stormflows in this urban watershed was similar to patterns found in previous studies of forested watersheds. Results for TDN indicated that there were relatively high baseflow nitrogen concentrations in the lower watershed that may have partially masked the remnant riparian signal during stormflows. Remnant riparian areas were a major source of DOC and TDN to the stream during storms. These results suggest the importance of preserving near-stream riparian areas in cities to maintain ambient carbon and nitrogen source contributions to urban streams.