Seasonal Trends of DOM Character in Soils and Stream Change With Snowmelt Timing

Document Type


Publication Date



College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science; Department of Biological Sciences


In many watersheds, runoff occurring with snowmelt brings the largest pulse of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from soils to streams. Yet, exactly how soil and stream DOM fractions are altered as snowmelt timing changes is not well understood. We studied the optical character of DOM as it moved through a first-order northern hardwood watershed through the snowmelt period. While stream dissolved organic carbon (DOC; mean = 4.6 mg C L−1) concentrations were not correlated with snowmelt flushing, stream DOM appeared humic-like throughout the study period (humification index, HIX; mean = 10.9). Within the stream, we measured seasonal increases in an inverse index of DOM molecular weight and processing (spectral slope, S275–295; range = 0.0102–0.0214) and in an index of recently derived DOM (Biological Index, BIX; range = 0.2–1.1). We measured a decrease in an inverse index of DOM oxidation (ratio of Peak C to Peak A, or C/A; range = 0.59–2.01) through the snowmelt period. Stream BIX and C/A tracked those measured in the north aspect soils throughout the study. C/A was unique as it decreased from source to stream, likely reflecting the diagenesis of DOM through soils. These data suggest that changes in the timing of snowmelt and hydrologic connectedness within a watershed affect seasonal changes in stream DOM character. We suggest that watersheds with deep glacial till parent materials have stream connectivity limited by subsurface flow paths, with stream DOM character being determined largely by slow melt and a longer period of infiltration.

Publication Title

Water Resources Research