Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Michelle Baker


This research combines observation, experimentation, and modeling to evaluate the influence of lakes on dissolved organic matter (DOM) quantity, quality and export in subalpine watersheds of the Sawtooth Mountain Lake District, central Idaho. First, I conducted an empirical study of the hydrologic and biogeochemical controls on DOM dynamics in stream-lake fluvial networks. I hypothesized that lakes would decrease temporal variability (i.e., buffer) and alter the characteristics of DOM from inflow to outflow. I tested these hypotheses by evaluating DOM temporal patterns and measuring annual export in seven-paired lake inflows and outflows. I then evaluated how ultraviolet (UV) exposure affected DOM characteristics during snowmelt and baseflow, and how UV alters baseflow DOM bioavailability and nutrient limitation. Given that increased water residence time increases UV exposure, I hypothesized that lake outflow DOM would be more photorecalcitrant than DOM from lake inflows. I further hypothesized that UV exposure would increase DOM quality, heterotrophic processing, and nutrient demand. Results indicate that lakes can buffer stream temporal variability by acting as a DOM sink during snowmelt and a DOM source during baseflow. Lake outflow DOM photodegradation was similar to lake inflows during snowmelt (p=0.66). Conversely, outflow DOM was 2X more photorecalcitrant than inflow DOM during baseflow (ANOVA, p=0.03) and was strongly related to water residence time (WRT). During baseflow, light exposure increased inflow and outflow DOM bioavailability (p=0.059 and 0.024, respectively) and nutrient limitation (p=0.03 and 0.09, respectively). Combined, these results indicate that WRT in subalpine lakes strongly influences DOM temporal variability and DOM degradation and processing. Thus, lakes can provide temporal stability of DOM and potentially increase both carbon and nutrient uptake by heterotrophs in lake outflows. I then evaluated how global changes could alter hydrologic and nutrient dynamics in a subalpine lake. Model results indicate that the magnitude and timing of snowmelt runoff can have a substantial effect on water and nutrient exports. In phosphorus (P)-limited lakes, increases in inorganic N concentrations within and exported from lakes are likely to occur with increased temperatures and lake WRT. Increases in atmospheric N deposition will further enhance inorganic N exports in P-limited subalpine lakes.


This work made publicly available electronically on August 2, 2010.