We examined the spatial and temporal variability of stream carbon dioxide (CO₂) and the drivers of these variations in a headwater catchment. To examine temporal variation and drivers, we measured stream and hyporheic pCO₂ at high temporal resolution over 11 months in a 95.9-ha forested headwater catchment in the Western Cascades of Central Oregon, USA. Stream and hyporheic pCO₂ showed high seasonal and event-scale variability with distinct stream and hyporheic dynamics during storm discharge events. Hyporheic exchange flow exported 37.5 kg-C yr⁻¹ per watershed hectare (confidence interval 4.0-122.3 kg-C ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹) from the riparian zone to the stream. Summing CO₂ evasion and downstream advection suggests that one third of inorganic carbon export originated in the hyporheic zone. Hyporheic exchange flow had greatest influence over stream pCO₂ during low and high baseflow, while CO₂ evasion had greatest influence during storm discharge events. These findings suggest that the hyporheic zone actively participates in carbon cycling in this headwater stream and continuously replenishes stream CO₂.
To examine spatial variation and drivers, we measured stream CO₂ at monthly intervals from July 2013 through July 2014 at 38 locations across the 6400-ha HJ Andrews Experimental Forest. Stream pCO₂ was consistently supersaturated with respect to atmospheric concentrations. Stream pCO₂ ranged from atmospheric (~400 μatm) to 20 times atmospheric concentrations (8150 μatm) and exhibited strong spatial and temporal variability. The distribution of pCO₂ over the study period was different in small and large streams within the drainage network. At the watershed scale, pCO₂ decreased with distance downstream. At the reach scale, we did not detect clear patterns in the downstream direction. However, individual transects displayed persistent profile shape, with consistent high and low pCO₂ locations. We found negative relationships between stream pCO₂ and stream discharge, mean velocity and the carbon dioxide gas transfer velocity. Stream pCO₂ exhibited changes over short distances, with large changes in pCO₂ over less than 50 m. Longitudinal variability indicates spatial variability of in-stream controls on pCO₂ at this scale. Stream pCO₂ shows generally higher concentrations during the summer and lower concentrations in the winter, with considerable intrannual variability.