Radiocarbon and stable isotope geochemistry of organic matter in the Amazon headwaters, Peruvian Andes

TitleRadiocarbon and stable isotope geochemistry of organic matter in the Amazon headwaters, Peruvian Andes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsTownsend-Small, A, Noguera, JL, McClain, ME, Brandes, JA
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Date PublishedJun 27
ISBN Number0886-6236
Keywordsamino-acids, atlantic-ocean, carbon, drainage-basin, land-use, nitrogen, particulate, river system, sediments, streams

[1] We used delta C-13, delta N-15, and Delta C-14 to determine the sources of riverine organic matter in the Pozuzo River, a tributary of the Pachitea River located in the mountainous headwaters of the Amazon. Particulate organic matter (POM) Delta C-14 decreased downstream, suggesting that young organic matter (OM) introduced in small headwaters is respired preferentially in rivers or is diluted downstream with older material. The delta C-13 and delta N-15 of POM in headwater rivers were heterogeneous and also isotopically distinct from the main stem, suggesting that differences in landscape processes in small catchments impact the concentration and composition of POM in streams. The delta C-13 of dissolved organic matter (DOM) closely mirrored that of POM in the headwaters, with an apparent decoupling of dissolved and particulate OM in the river main stem. The delta C-13 of POM sampled in 2004 had a much different relationship with altitude than observed during previous years: In 2004, a very dry year, we observed enrichment from the headwaters to the main stem, and the opposite pattern in 2002, when rain fell heavily throughout the sampling campaign. This suggests that during dry conditions, in-stream processes ( such as resuspension or photosynthesis) may control riverine POM composition as opposed to terrestrial processes, which dominate during high runoff. Thus a decrease in runoff in Andean headwaters could result in less terrestrial POM transfer to rivers in the Andes foothills and lowland Amazon with a corresponding decrease in aquatic CO2 evasion.