Effects of long-term land use change on dissolved carbon characteristics in the permafrost streams of northeast China
Permafrost soils act as large sinks of organic carbon but are highly sensitive to interference such as changes in land use, which can greatly influence dissolved carbon loads in streams. This study examines the effects of long-term land reclamation on seasonal concentrations of dissolved carbons in the upper reaches of the Nenjiang River, northeast China. A comparison of streams in natural and agricultural systems shows that the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration is much lower in the agricultural stream (AG) than in the two natural streams (WAF, wetland dominated; FR, forest dominated), suggesting that land use change is associated with reduced DOC exporting capacity. Moreover, the fluorescence indexes and the ratio of dissolved carbon to nitrogen also differ greatly between the natural and agricultural streams, indicating that the chemical characteristics and the origin of the DOC released from the whole reaches are also altered to some extent. Importantly, the exporting concentration of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and its proportion of total dissolved carbon (TDC) substantially increase following land reclamation, which would largely alter the carbon cycling processes in the downstream fluvial system. Although the strong association between the stream discharge and the DOC concentration was unchanged, the reduction in total soil organic carbon following land reclamation led to remarkable decline of the total flux and exporting coefficient of the dissolved carbons. The results suggest that dissolved carbons in permafrost streams have been greatly affected by changes in land use since the 1970s, and the changes in the concentration and chemical characteristics of dissolved carbons will last until the alteration in both the traditional agriculture pattern and the persistent reclamation activities.