Characteristics of Dissolved Organic Matter from a Transboundary Himalayan Watershed: Relationships with Land Use, Elevation, and Hydrology

Meilian Chen*, Chen Zeng, Fan Zhang, Shichang Kang, Chaoliu Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Himalayan rivers play pivotal roles in regional water and food supplies, global sediments, and carbon budgets. We studied a transboundary mountainous Kosi River in the Himalayas by utilizing ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy and excitation-emission matrix coupled with parallel factor analysis. We have found that agricultural land use promoted the production of abundant proteinlike fluorescence in the surface waters [∼1.1-1.8 Raman unit (RU) for two proteinlike components that accounts for ≥97% of relative abundance] as opposed to natural vegetation land cover (e.g., forests and grasslands), despite the low dissolved organic carbon (DOC, 0.50-1.02 mg L-1), implying more reactive fluorescent dissolved organic matter (FDOM) that can potentially cause more CO2 outgassing. Furthermore, we observed a decreasing trend of slope ratio (SR) and proteinlike fluorescence with elevation as opposed to a humiclike component, potentially due to more concentrated croplands and consequent nutrient inputs to rivers at lower elevations. In addition, poststorm samples shifted to more humiclike FDOM and chromophoric DOM (CDOM) sides compared to baseflow water. These findings highlighted the importance of land uses and other environmental conditions, such as elevation and hydrology, on DOM characteristics and dynamics and water quality, which can potentially be amplified due to the steep gradients in mountainous watersheds. Measures should be taken for proper and sustainable land uses to mitigate river water eutrophication and pollution and to protect drinking water sources for millions of populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-456
Number of pages8
JournalACS Earth and Space Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 19 Mar 2020


  • Himalayan mountainous rivers
  • agricultural land use
  • dissolved organic matter
  • elevation
  • hydrology


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