Global Biogeochemical Cycles

Amounts, isotopic character, and ages of organic and inorganic carbon exported from rivers to ocean margins: 1. Estimates of terrestrial losses and inputs to the Middle Atlantic Bight

Authors

  • Katie Hossler,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
    • Corresponding author: Katie Hossler, Aquatic Biogeochemistry Laboratory, Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, 1314 Kinnear Road, Columbus, OH 43212-1156, USA. (hossler.3@osu.edu)

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  • James E. Bauer

    1. Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
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Abstract

[1] Rivers transport carbon (C) from terrestrial ecosystems to the coastal ocean, providing significant heterotrophic support within both rivers and receiving coastal waters. The amounts and ages of these terrestrial-river-coastal ocean C fluxes, however, are still poorly constrained. To address this uncertainty, a study of eight rivers discharging to the Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB) was undertaken. The rivers were sampled periodically over 2 years for concentrations and δ13C and Δ14C signatures of particulate organic C (POC), dissolved organic C (DOC), and dissolved inorganic C (DIC). For the watersheds draining to the MAB, it was estimated that ∼3800 Gg of terrestrial organic C (OC) and 700 Gg of terrestrial inorganic C was removed annually by fluvial transport. Of the terrestrial OC loss, ∼64% was contemporary C representing approximately 1% of the annual terrestrial net primary productivity. Net fluvial C inputs to the MAB shelf were estimated to be ∼70 Gg·yr − 1 of POC, 280 Gg·yr − 1 of DOC, and 800 Gg·yr − 1 of DIC. Terrestrial C, as opposed to in situ produced river C, comprised the majority of the riverine POC and DOC flux and around half of the total C flux. A smaller but significant fraction (<25%) of the river C flux was further composed of aged materials deriving from fossil C and aged soil OC. The timing of fluvial OC inputs to the MAB, which appear to be temporally offset from peak MAB primary production, could help support the net heterotrophy that has been observed there during periods of low productivity.

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