Table_1_Synchronous Biodegradability and Production of Dissolved Organic Matter in Two Streams of Varying Land Use.XLSX
In aquatic ecosystems, dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition is driven by land use, microbial activity, and seasonal variation in hydrology and water temperature, and, in turn, its microbial bioavailability is expected to vary due to differences in its composition. It is commonly assumed that DOM of terrestrial origin is resistant to microbial activity because it is composed of more complex aromatic compounds. However, the effect of DOM sources on the microbial reworking and degradation of the DOM pool remains debated. We performed laboratory incubation experiments to examine how temporal changes in DOM composition influence its microbial biodegradability in two contrasting streams (agricultural and forested) in southern Ontario, Canada. Despite a more allochthonous-like DOM signature in the forest stream and a more autochthonous-like DOM signature in the agriculture stream, we found that biodegradation and production of DOC were the same in both streams and synchronous throughout the sampling period. However, the initial DOM composition impacted how the DOM pool changed upon degradation. During the incubations, both autochthonous-like and allochthonous-like fractions of the DOM pool increased. We also found that a greater change in DOM composition during the incubations induced higher degradation of carbon. Finally, temporal variation in DOC biodegradation and production over time or across streams was not related to DOM composition, although there was a significant relationship between BDOC and nutrient concentrations in the agriculture stream. This observation potentially challenges the notion that DOM origin predicts its bioavailability and suggests that broad environmental factors shape DOC consumption and production in aquatic ecosystems. More research is needed to better understand the drivers of microbial biodegradability in streams, as this ultimately determines the fate of DOM in aquatic ecosystems.