George R. Aiken

United States Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, United States

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Publications (235)462.23 Total impact

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    Full-text · Dataset · Jan 2016
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    ABSTRACT: Methylation of tracer and ambient mercury ((200)Hg and (202)Hg, respectively) equilibrated with four different natural organic matter (NOM) isolates was investigated in vivo using the Hg-methylating sulfate-reducing bacterium Desulfobulbus propionicus 1pr3. Desulfobulbus cultures grown fermentatively with environmentally representative concentrations of dissolved NOM isolates, Hg[II], and HS(-) were assayed for absolute methylmercury (MeHg) concentration and conversion of Hg(II) to MeHg relative to total unfiltered Hg(II). Results showed the (200)Hg tracer was methylated more efficiently in the presence of hydrophobic NOM isolates than in the presence of transphilic NOM, or in the absence of NOM. Different NOM isolates were associated with variable methylation efficiencies for either the (202)Hg tracer or ambient (200)Hg. One hydrophobic NOM, F1 HpoA derived from dissolved organic matter from the Florida Everglades, was equilibrated for different times with Hg tracer, which resulted in different methylation rates. A 5 day equilibration with F1 HpoA resulted in more MeHg production than either the 4 h or 30 day equilibration periods, suggesting a time dependence for NOM-enhanced Hg bioavailability for methylation.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Frontiers in Microbiology
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    ABSTRACT: A time series of organic carbon export from Gulf of Maine (GoM) watersheds was compared to a time series of biological, chemical, bio-optical and hydrographic properties, measured across the GoM between Yarmouth, NS, Canada and Portland, ME, USA. Optical proxies were used to quantify the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and particulate organic carbon (POC) in the GoM. The LOADEST regression model applied to river discharge data demonstrated that riverine DOC export (and its decadal variance) has increased over the last 80 years. Several extraordinarily wet years (2006–2010) resulted in a massive pulse of chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM; proxy for DOC) into the western GoM along with unidentified optically-scattering material (<0.2 µm diameter). A survey of DOC in the GoM and Scotian Shelf showed the strong influence of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence on the DOC that enters the GoM. A deep plume of CDOM-rich water was observed near the coast of Maine which decreased in concentration eastwards. The Forel-Ule color scale was derived and compared to the same measurements made in 1912-13 by Henry Bigelow. Results show that the GoM has yellowed in the last century, particularly in the region of the extension of the Eastern Maine Coastal Current. Time lags between DOC discharge and its appearance in the GoM increased with distance from the river mouths. Algae were also a significant source of DOC but not CDOM. Gulf-wide algal primary production has decreased. Increases in precipitation and DOC discharge to the GoM are predicted over the next century.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Global Biogeochemical Cycles
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    Yihua Cai · Laodong Guo · Xuri Wang · George Aiken

    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
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    ABSTRACT: Riparian soils are an important environment in the transport of mercury in rivers and wetlands, but the biogeochemical factors controlling mercury dynamics under transient redox conditions in these soils are not well understood. Mercury release and transformations in the Oa and underlying A horizons of a contaminated riparian soil were characterized in microcosms and an intact soil core under saturation conditions. Pore water dynamics of total mercury (HgT), methylmercury (MeHg), and dissolved gaseous mercury (Hg0(aq)) along with selected anions, major elements, and trace metals were characterized across redox transitions during 36 d of flooding in microcosms. Next, HgT dynamics were characterized over successive flooding (17 d), drying (28 d), and flooding (36 d) periods in the intact core. The observed mercury dynamics exhibit depth and temporal variability. At the onset of flooding in microcosms (1–3 d), mercury in the Oa horizon soil, present as a combination of ionic mercury (Hg(II)) bound to thiol groups in the soil organic matter (SOM) and nanoparticulate metacinnabar (β-HgS), was mobilized with organic matter of high molecular weight. Subsequently, under anoxic conditions, pore water HgT declined coincident with sulfate (3–11 d) and the proportion of nanoparticulate β-HgS in the Oa horizon soil increased slightly. Redox oscillations in the intact Oa horizon soil exhausted the mobile mercury pool associated with organic matter. In contrast, mercury in the A horizon soil, present predominantly as nanoparticulate β-HgS, was mobilized primarily as Hg0(aq) under strongly reducing conditions (5–18 d). The concentration of Hg0(aq) under dark reducing conditions correlated positively with byproducts of dissimilatory metal reduction (∑(Fe,Mn)). Mercury dynamics in intact A horizon soil were consistent over two periods of flooding, indicating that nanoparticulate β-HgS was an accessible pool of mobile mercury over recurrent reducing conditions. The concentration of MeHg increased with flooding time in both the Oa and A horizon pore waters. Temporal changes in pore water constituents (iron, manganese, sulfate, inorganic carbon, headspace methane) all implicate microbial control of redox transitions. The mobilization of mercury in multiple forms, including HgT associated with organic matter, MeHg, and Hg0(aq), to pore waters during periodic soil flooding may contribute to mercury releases to adjacent surface waters and the recycling of the legacy mercury to the atmosphere.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
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    ABSTRACT: This study focused on the importance of the colmation layer in the removal of cyanobacteria, viruses, and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) during natural bank filtration. Injection-and-recovery studies were performed at two shallow (0.5 m deep), sandy, near-shore sites at the southern end of Ashumet Pond, a waste-impacted, kettle pond on Cape Cod, MA, that is subject to periodic blooms of cyanobacteria and continuously recharges a sole-source drinking-water aquifer. The experiment involved assessing the transport behaviors of bromide (conservative tracer), sp. IU625 (cyanobacterium, 2.6 ± 0.2 µm), AS-1 (tailed cyanophage, 110 nm long), MS2 (coliphage, 26 nm diameter), and carboxylate-modified microspheres (1.7 µm diameter) introduced to the colmation layer using a bag-and-barrel (Lee-type) seepage meter. The injectate constituents were tracked as they were advected across the pond water-groundwater interface and through the underlying aquifer sediments under natural-gradient conditions past push-point samplers placed at ∼30-cm intervals along a 1.2-m-long, diagonally downward flow path. More than 99% of the microspheres, IU625, MS2, AS-1, and ∼44% of the pond DOC were removed in the colmation layer (upper 25 cm of poorly sorted bottom sediments) at two test locations characterized by dissimilar seepage rates (1.7 vs. 0.26 m d). Retention profiles in recovered core material indicated that >82% of the attached IU625 were in the top 3 cm of bottom sediments. The colmation layer was also responsible for rapid changes in the character of the DOC and was more effective (by three orders of magnitude) at removing microspheres than was the underlying 20-cm-thick segment of sediment.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · Journal of Environmental Quality
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    Yihua Cai · Laodong Guo · Xuri Wang · George Aiken
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    ABSTRACT: Sources, abundance, isotopic compositions, and export fluxes of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), dissolved and colloidal organic carbon (DOC and COC), and particulate organic carbon (POC), and their response to hydrologic regimes were examined through monthly sampling from the Lower Mississippi River during 2006–2008. DIC was the most abundant carbon species, followed by POC and DOC. Concentration and δ13C of DIC decreased with increasing river discharge while those of DOC remained fairly stable. COC comprised 61 ± 3% of the bulk DOC with similar δ13C abundances but higher percentages of hydrophobic organic acids than DOC, suggesting its aromatic and diagenetically younger status. POC showed peak concentrations during medium flooding events and at the rising limb of large flooding events. While δ13C-POC increased, δ15N of particulate nitrogen decreased with increasing discharge. Overall, the differences in δ13C between DOC or DIC and POC show an inverse correlation with river discharge. The higher input of soil organic matter and respired CO2 during wet seasons was likely the main driver for the convergence of δ13C between DIC and DOC or POC, whereas enhanced in situ primary production and respiration during dry seasons might be responsible for their isotopic divergence. Carbon export fluxes from the Mississippi River were estimated to be 13.6 Tg-C y−1 for DIC, 1.88 Tg-C y−1 for DOC, and 2.30 Tg-C y−1 for POC during 2006–2008. The discharge-normalized DIC yield decreased during wet seasons while those of POC and DOC increased and remained constant, respectively, implying variable responses in carbon export to the increasing discharge.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
  • Chuanjia Jiang · George R Aiken · Heileen Hsu-Kim
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    ABSTRACT: The dissolution of zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles (NPs) is a key step controlling their environmental fate, bioavailability, and toxicity. Rates of dissolution often depend upon factors such as interactions of NPs with natural organic matter (NOM). We examined the effects of 16 different NOM isolates on the dissolution kinetics of ZnO NPs in buffered potassium chloride solution using anodic stripping voltammetry to directly measure dissolved zinc concentrations. The observed dissolution rate constants (kobs) and dissolved zinc concentrations at equilibrium increased linearly with NOM concentration (from 0 to 40 mg-C L(-1)) for Suwannee River humic and fulvic acids and Pony Lake fulvic acid. When dissolution rates were compared for the 16 NOM isolates, kobs was positively correlated with certain properties of NOM, including specific ultraviolet absorbance (SUVA), aromatic and carbonyl carbon contents, and molecular weight. Dissolution rate constants were negatively correlated to hydrogen/carbon ratio and aliphatic carbon content. The observed correlations indicate that aromatic carbon content is a key factor in determining the rate of NOM-promoted dissolution of ZnO NPs. The findings of this study facilitate a better understanding of the fate of ZnO NPs in organic-rich aquatic environments and highlight SUVA as a facile and useful indicator of NOM interactions with metal-based nanoparticles.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Environmental Science & Technology
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    ABSTRACT: Methylmercury is the environmental form of neurotoxic mercury that is biomagnified in the food chain. Methylation rates are reduced when the metal is sequestered in crystalline mercury sulfides or bound to thiol groups in macromolecular natural organic matter. Mercury sulfide minerals are known to nucleate in anoxic zones, by reaction of the thiol-bound mercury with biogenic sulfide, but not in oxic environments. We present experimental evidence that mercury sulfide forms from thiol-bound mercury alone in aqueous dark systems in contact with air. The maximum amount of nanoparticulate mercury sulfide relative to thiol-bound mercury obtained by reacting dissolved mercury and soil organic matter matches that detected in the organic horizon of a contaminated soil situated downstream from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the USA. The nearly identical ratios of the two forms of mercury in field and experimental systems suggest a common reaction mechanism for nucleating the mineral. We identified a chemical reaction mechanism that is thermodynamically favorable in which thiol-bound mercury polymerizes to mercury-sulfur clusters. The clusters form by elimination of sulfur from the thiol complexes via breaking of mercury-sulfur bonds as in an alkylation reaction. Addition of sulfide is not required. This nucleation mechanism provides one explanation for how mercury may be immobilized, and eventually sequestered, in oxygenated surface environments.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Environmental Science & Technology
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    ABSTRACT: Surface waters play a potentially important role in the global carbon balance. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fluxes are a major transfer of terrestrial carbon to river systems, and the fate of DOC in aquatic systems is poorly constrained. We used a unique combination of spatially distributed sampling of three DOC fractions throughout a river network and modeling to quantify the net removal of terrestrial DOC during a summer base flow period. We found that aquatic reactivity of terrestrial DOC leading to net loss is low, closer to conservative chloride than to reactive nitrogen. Net removal occurred mainly from the hydrophobic organic acid fraction, while hydrophilic and transphilic acids showed no net change, indicating that partitioning of bulk DOC into different fractions is critical for understanding terrestrial DOC removal. These findings suggest that river systems may have only a modest ability to alter the amounts of terrestrial DOC delivered to coastal zones.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015
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    ABSTRACT: A better understanding is needed of how hydrological and biogeochemical processes control dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition from headwaters downstream to large rivers. We examined a large DOM dataset from the National Water Information System of the US Geological Survey, which represents approximately 100 000 measurements of DOC concentration and DOM composition at many sites along rivers across the United States. Application of quantile regression revealed a tendency towards downstream spatial and temporal homogenization of DOC concentrations and a shift from dominance of aromatic DOM in headwaters to more aliphatic DOM downstream. The DOC concentration-discharge (C-Q) relationships at each site revealed a downstream tendency towards a slope of zero. We propose that despite complexities in river networks that have driven many revisions to the River Continuum Concept, rivers show a tendency towards chemostasis (C-Q slope of zero) because of a downstream shift from a dominance of hydrologic drivers that connect terrestrial DOM sources to streams in the headwaters towards a dominance of instream and near-stream biogeochemical processes that result in preferential losses of aromatic DOM and preferential gains of aliphatic DOM.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: A suite of analytical tools was applied to thoroughly analyze the chemical composition of an oil/gas well flowback water from the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) basin in Colorado, and the water quality data was translated to propose effective treatment solutions tailored to specific reuse goals. Analysis included bulk quality parameters, trace organic and inorganic constituents, and organic matter characterization. The flowback sample contained salts (TDS=22,500mg/L), metals (e.g., iron at 81.4mg/L) and high concentration of dissolved organic matter (DOC=590mgC/L). The organic matter comprised fracturing fluid additives such as surfactants (e.g., linear alkyl ethoxylates) and high levels of acetic acid (an additives' degradation product), indicating the anthropogenic impact on this wastewater. Based on the water quality results and preliminary treatability tests, the removal of suspended solids and iron by aeration/precipitation (and/or filtration) followed by disinfection was identified as appropriate for flowback recycling in future fracturing operations. In addition to these treatments, a biological treatment (to remove dissolved organic matter) followed by reverse osmosis desalination was determined to be necessary to attain water quality standards appropriate for other water reuse options (e.g., crop irrigation). The study provides a framework for evaluating site-specific hydraulic fracturing wastewaters, proposing a suite of analytical methods for characterization, and a process for guiding the choice of a tailored treatment approach. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Science of The Total Environment
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    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Geophysical Research Letters
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    ABSTRACT: Concentrations and distributions of metals in Suwannee River (SR) raw filtered surface water (RFSW) and dissolved organic matter (DOM) processed by reverse osmosis (RO), XAD-8 resin (for humic and fulvic acids [FA]), and XAD-4 resin (for "transphilic" acids) were analyzed by asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation (AsFlFFF). SR samples were compared with DOM samples from Nelson's Creek (NLC), a wetland-draining stream in northern Michigan; previous International Humic Substances Society (IHSS) FA and RO samples from the SR; and an XAD-8 sample from Lake Fryxell (LF), Antarctica. Despite application of cation exchange during sample processing, all XAD and RO samples contained substantial metal concentrations. AsFlFFF fractograms allowed metal distributions to be characterized as a function of DOM component molecular weight (MW). In SR RFSW, Fe, Al, and Cu were primarily associated with intermediate to higher than average MW DOM components. SR RO, XAD-8, and XAD-4 samples from May 2012 showed similar MW trends for Fe and Al but Cu tended to associate more with lower MW DOM. LF DOM had abundant Cu and Zn, perhaps due to amine groups that should be present due to its primarily algal origins. None of the fractograms showed obvious evidence for mineral nanoparticles, although some very small mineral nanoparticles might have been present at trace concentrations. This research suggests that AsFlFFF is important for understanding how metals are distributed in different DOM samples (including IHSS samples), which may be key to metal reactivity and bioavailability.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Environmental Engineering Science
  • G.R. Aiken
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    ABSTRACT: Dissolved organic matter in natural waters has long been recognized as an important driver of critical processes influencing water quality. This review focusses on current issues and recent advances in the study of dissolved organic matter chemistry and reactivity. Emphasis is placed on advances in the analyses of dissolved organic matter, the factors controlling dissolved organic matter concentrations and chemistry, current research efforts to define the potential effects of dissolved organic matter on key water-quality issues, and the potential utility of dissolved organic matter and its optical properties as proxies for other constituents influencing water quality.
    No preview · Chapter · Dec 2014
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    ABSTRACT: The residence time of ice in permafrost is an indicator of past climate history, and of the resilience and vulnerability of high-latitude ecosystems to global change. Development of geochemical indicators of ground-ice residence times in permafrost will advance understanding of the circumstances and evidence of permafrost formation, preservation, and thaw in response to climate warming and other disturbance. We used uranium isotopes to evaluate the residence time of segregated ground ice from ice-rich loess permafrost cores in central Alaska. Activity ratios of 234U vs. 238U (234U/238U) in water from thawed core sections ranged between 1.163 and 1.904 due to contact of ice and associated liquid water with mineral surfaces over time. Measured (234U/238U) values in ground ice showed an overall increase with depth in a series of five neighboring cores up to 21 m deep. This is consistent with increasing residence time of ice with depth as a result of accumulation of loess over time, as well as characteristic ice morphologies, high segregated ice content, and wedge ice, all of which support an interpretation of syngenetic permafrost formation associated with loess deposition. At the same time, stratigraphic evidence indicates some past sediment redistribution and possibly shallow thaw among cores, with local mixing of aged thaw waters. Using measures of surface area and a leaching experiment to determine U distribution, a geometric model of (234U/238U) evolution suggests mean ages of up to ∼200 ky BP in the deepest core, with estimated uncertainties of up to an order of magnitude. Evidence of secondary coatings on loess grains with elevated (234U/238U) values and U concentrations suggests that refinement of the geometric model to account for weathering processes is needed to reduce uncertainty. We suggest that in this area of deep ice-rich loess permafrost, ice bodies have been preserved from the last glacial period (10-100 ky BP), despite subsequent fluctuations in climate, fire disturbance and vegetation. Radiocarbon (14C) analysis of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in thaw waters supports ages greater than ∼40 ky BP below 10 m. DOC concentrations in thaw waters increased with depth to maxima of >1000 ppm, despite little change in ice content or cryostructures. These relations suggest time-dependent production of old DOC that will be released upon permafrost thaw at a rate that is mediated by sediment transport, among other factors.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
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    ABSTRACT: Recent warming at high latitudes has accelerated permafrost thaw, which can modify soil carbon dynamics and watershed hydrology. The flux and composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from soils to rivers is sensitive to permafrost configuration and its impact on subsurface hydrology and groundwater discharge. Here, we evaluate the utility of DOM composition and age as a tool for detecting permafrost thaw in three rivers (Beaver, Birch and Hess Creeks) within the discontinuous permafrost zone of interior Alaska. We observed strong temporal controls on Δ14C content of hydrophobic acid isolates (Δ14C-HPOA) across all rivers, with the most enriched values occurring during spring snowmelt (75 ± 8 ‰) and most depleted during winter flow (−21 ± 8 ‰). Radiocarbon ages of winter flow samples ranged from 35 to 445 y BP, closely tracking estimated median baseflow travel times for this region (335 y). During spring snowmelt, young DOM was composed of highly aromatic, high molecular-weight compounds, whereas older DOM of winter flow had lower aromaticity and molecular weight. We observed a significant correlation between Δ14C-HPOA and UV absorbance coefficient at 254 nm (α254) across all study rivers. Using α254 as an optical indicator for Δ14C-HPOA, we also observed a long-term decline in α254 during maximum annual thaw depth over the last decade at the Hess Creek study site. These findings suggest a shift in watershed hydrology associated with increasing active layer thickness. Further development of DOM optical indicators may serve as a novel and inexpensive tool for detecting permafrost degradation in northern watersheds.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
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    Brett Albert Poulin · Joseph N Ryan · George R Aiken
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    ABSTRACT: Iron is a source of interference in the spectroscopic analysis of dissolved organic matter (DOM); however, its effects on commonly-employed ultraviolet and visible (UV-Vis) light adsorption and fluorescence measurements are poorly defined. Here, we describe the effects of iron(II) and iron(III) on the UV-Vis absorption and fluorescence of solutions containing two DOM fractions and two surface water samples. In each case, regardless of DOM composition, UV-Vis absorption increased linearly with increasing iron(III). Correction factors were derived using iron(III) absorption coefficients determined at wavelengths commonly used to characterize DOM. Iron(III) addition increased specific UV absorbances (SUVA) and decreased the absorption ratios (E2:E3) and spectral slope ratios (SR) of DOM samples. Both iron(II) and iron(III) quenched DOM fluorescence at pH 6.7. The degree and region of fluorescence quenching varied with the iron:DOC concentration ratio, DOM composition, and pH. Regions of the fluorescence spectra associated with greater DOM conjugation were more susceptible to iron quenching, and DOM fluorescence indices were sensitive to the presence of both forms of iron. Analyses of the excitation-emission matrices using a 7- and 13-component parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC) model showed low PARAFAC sensitivity to iron addition.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Environmental Science and Technology
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    Full-text · Dataset · Jun 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Responses of near-surface permafrost and glacial ice to climate change are of particular significance for understanding long term effects on global carbon cycling and carbon export by high-latitude northern rivers. Here we report Δ14C -dissolved organic carbon (DOC) values and dissolved organic matter optical data for the Yukon River, 15 tributaries of the Yukon River, glacial meltwater, and groundwater and soil water endmember sources draining to the Yukon River, with the goal of assessing mobilization of aged DOC within the watershed. Ancient DOC was associated with glacial meltwater and groundwater sources. In contrast, DOC from watersheds dominated by peat soils and underlain by permafrost was typically enriched in Δ14C indicating that degradation of ancient carbon stores is currently not occurring at large enough scales to quantitatively influence bulk DOC exports from those landscapes. On an annual basis, DOC exported was predominantly modern during the spring period throughout the Yukon River basin, and became older through summer-fall and winter periods, suggesting that contributions of older DOC from soils, glacial meltwaters and groundwater are significant during these months. Our data indicate that rapidly receding glaciers and increasing groundwater inputs will likely result in greater contributions of older DOC in the Yukon River and its tributaries in coming decades.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014

Publication Stats

10k Citations
462.23 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1992-2016
    • United States Geological Survey
      • Ohio Water Resources Center
      Reston, Virginia, United States
  • 1993-2015
    • University of Colorado at Boulder
      • Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering (CEAE)
      Boulder, Colorado, United States
  • 2006
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
      Berkeley, California, United States
    • University of Maine
      • School of Marine Sciences
      Orono, Minnesota, United States
  • 2005
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
      • Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
      Chapel Hill, NC, United States
    • State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
      • Department of Chemistry
      Syracuse, New York, United States
  • 2000
    • Kent State University
      • Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
      Кент, Ohio, United States