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Frontiers in Environmental Science




Frontiers Research Foundation

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Terrestrially derived organic matter (OM) is known to dominate the OM pool in reference watersheds. Urban watersheds are known to receive large OM loads compared to reference watersheds, but the proportion of terrestrial, autochthonous, and anthropogenic (e.g., wastewater effluent) sources of OM in urban watersheds remains unknown. Organic matter was identified as a pollutant of concern in the Jordan River, an urban river in the Salt Lake Basin, U.S.A. Our objective was to identify autochthonous, terrestrial, and anthropogenic sources of three size-classes of OM to the Jordan River to inform OM reduction strategies within the watershed. Samples of coarse particulate OM (CPOM), fine particulate OM (FPOM), and dissolved OM (DOM) were analyzed for stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen. Stable isotope values of OM were used for Bayesian and graphical gradient-based mixing models to identify autochthonous, terrestrial, and anthropogenic sources. Fluorescent properties of DOM were also used to characterize the sources and composition of DOM. CPOM was primarily terrestrially derived with increased autochthonous inputs from macrophytes in warm months. FPOM was a mixture of terrestrial, autochthonous, and wastewater effluent throughout the year. DOM was primarily from wastewater effluent as well as DOM with isotope signatures unique to DOM from Utah Lake. Characterization of OM in urban rivers will help inform conceptual models of OM dynamics and load management in urban ecosystems.