Climate Drivers and Sources of Sediment and Organic Matter Fluxes in Intermittent Rivers and Ephemeral Streams (IRES) of a Subtropical Watershed, USA
Climate-driven hydrological models rarely incorporate intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams (IRES) due to monitoring difficulties and their perceived minor effect on river networks. Worldwide, IRES represent approximately 50% of river networks and up to 60% of annual flow and are recognized as conduits and processors of organic matter (OM). Climate induced changes in precipitation and discharge (Q) may impact OM fluxes from IRES. We assessed storm-driven source and flux of total suspended solids (TSS) and OM from small IRES in Mississippi, USA. We used linear Pearson correlations to evaluate relationships between water and storm characteristics (e.g., discharge). Stepwise regression was used to predict change in flux. Dissolved OM was derived from saturated flow through soil whereas particulate OM was derived from channel extension during storms. A power log relationship between Q and materials flux indicated that Q was the driver for flux. A 5% increase in Q within IRES may result in flux increase of 2% TSS and 1.7–2.8% OM. Climate change projections of increased storm intensity over a shorter water year will increase channel extension and soil water transfer resulting in higher material flux to downstream reaches. Climate-driven hydrological models of OM flux should incorporate IRES.