Influence of soil temperature and moisture on the dissolved carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in organic matter entering lake ecosystems

Brittni L. Bertolet, Jessica R. Corman, Nora J. Casson, Stephen D. Sebestyen, Randy K. Kolka, Emily H. Stanley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Concentrations of terrestrially derived dissolved organic matter (DOM) have been increasing in many north temperate and boreal lakes for over two decades. The concentration of DOM in lakes is influenced by a number of environmental factors, but there is still considerable debate about how the availability of terrestrial DOM, and associated dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus, may be affected by drivers of climatic change. Using experimental and observational methods, we considered how changes in soil temperature and moisture affected the composition of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus entering freshwater lakes. In our experiment, organic soil cores were collected from the wetland shoreline of a darkly-stained seepage lake in northern Wisconsin, USA and manipulated in laboratory with temperature and moisture treatments. During the 28-day study, soil leachate was sampled and analyzed for optical properties of DOM via UV/Vis absorbance, as well as concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total dissolved nitrogen, and total dissolved phosphorus (TDP). DOM optical properties were particularly sensitive to moisture, with drier scenarios resulting in DOM of lower molecular weight and aromaticity. Warmer temperatures led to lower DOC and TDP concentrations. To consider long-term relationships between climate and lake chemical properties, we analyzed long-term water chemistry data from two additional Wisconsin lakes from the long term ecological research (LTER) project in a cross correlation analysis with Palmer drought severity index data. Analysis of the LTER data supported our experimental results that soil moisture has a significant effect on the quality of DOM entering lakes and that climate may significantly affect lake chemical properties. Although unexpected in terms of DOM loading for climate change scenarios, these results are consistent with patterns of decomposition in organic soils and may be attributed to an increase in soil DOM processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-305
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Allochthonous carbon
  • Climate change
  • Land–water linkages
  • Nutrients
  • Riparian

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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