The Role of Streamside Native Forests on Dissolved Organic Matter in Forested and Agricultural Watersheds in Northwestern Patagonia
Streamside native forests are known for their key role in water provision, commonly referred to as buffers that control the input or output of nutrients from terrestrial to aquatic ecosystems (i.e., nitrogen or carbon cycle). In order to assess the functional role of indigenous forests along streamside channels, we measured 10 parameters associated with DOM (Dissolved Organic Matter) at 42 points in 12 small catchments (15–200 ha) dominated by native forests (reference, WNF), forest plantations (WFP) and agricultural lands (WAL) in which the land cover portion was calculated in the entire watershed and along 30 and 60-m wide buffer strips. We found that watersheds WFP and WAL were statistically different than WNF, according to DIC concentrations (Dissolved Inorganic Carbon) and the intensity of the maximum fluorescence of DOM components. Using linear models, we related streamside native forest coverage in buffer strips with DOM parameters. The increase of streamside native forest coverage in 60 m wide buffer strips (0–100%) was related to lower DIC concentrations (0.89 to 0.28 mg C L−1). In watersheds WFP and WAL, the humic and fulvic-like components (0.42 to 1.42 R.U./mg C L−1) that predominated were related to an increase in streamside native forest coverage in the form of a 60 m wide buffer strip (0–75%). This is evidence that streamside native forests influence outputs of detritus and lowered in-stream processing with concomitant downstream transport, and functional integrity and water quality. We propose that DOM quantity and quality may be a potential tool for the identification of priority areas near streams for conservation and ecological restoration in terms of recovery of water quality as an important ecosystem service. The results of this study are useful to inform policy and regulations about the width of streamside native forests as well as their characteristics and restrictions.
MATERIA ORGANICA DISUELTA
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