We explored the underlying patterns of temporal stream CO2 partial pressure (pCO2) variability using high-frequency sensors in seven disparate headwater streams distributed across the northern hemisphere. We also compared this dataset of >40,000 pCO2 records with other published records from lotic systems. Individual stream sites exhibited relatively distinct pCO2 patterns over time with few consistent traits across sites. Some sites showed strong diel variability, some exhibited increasing pCO2 with increasing discharge, whereas other streams had reduced pCO2 with increasing discharge or no clear response to changes in flow. The only “universal” signature observed in headwater streams was a late summer pCO2 maxima that was likely driven by greatest rates of organic matter respiration due to highest annual temperatures. However, we did not observe this seasonal pattern in a southern hardwood forest site, likely because the region was transitioning from a severe drought. This work clearly illustrates the heterogeneous nature of headwater streams, and highlights the idiosyncratic nature of a non-conservative solute that is jointly influenced by physics, hydrology, and biology. We suggest that future researchers carefully select sensor locations (within and among streams) and provide additional contextual information when attempting to explain pCO2 patterns.
Crawford, J. T., Stanley, E. H., Dornblaser, M. M., & Striegl, R. G. (2017). CO2 time series patterns in contrasting headwater streams of North America. Aquatic Sciences, 79(3), 473–486. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00027-016-0511-2