Comprehensive multiyear carbon budget of a temperate headwater stream

Publications Type: 
Journal Article
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Argerich, Alba; Haggerty, Roy; Johnson, Sherri L.; Wondzell, Steve M.; Dosch, Nicholas; Corson-Rikert, Hayley; Ashkenas, Linda; Robert, Pennington; Thomas, Christoph K. 2016. Comprehensive multiyear carbon budget of a temperate headwater stream. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 121: 1-10. doi:


Headwater streams comprise nearly 90% of the total length of perennial channels in global catchments. They mineralize organic carbon entering from terrestrial systems, evade terrestrial carbon dioxide (CO2), and generate and remove carbon through in-stream primary production and respiration. Despite their importance, headwater streams are often neglected in global carbon budgets primarily because of a lack of available data. We measured these processes, in detail, over a 10 year period in a stream draining a 96 ha forested watershed in western Oregon, USA. This stream, which represents only 0.4% of the watershed area, exported 159 kg C ha-1 yr-1, similar to the global exports for large rivers. Stream export was dominated by downstream transport of dissolved inorganic carbon (63 kg C ha-1 yr-1) and by evasion of CO2 to the atmosphere (42 kg C ha-1 yr-1), leaving the remainder of 51 kg C ha-1 yr-1 for downstream transport of organic carbon (17 kg C ha-1 yr-1 and 34 kg C ha-1 yr-1 in dissolved and particulate form, respectively).