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Keywords:

  • St Lawrence;
  • river;
  • isotope;
  • carbon;
  • POC;
  • DOC;
  • 14C;
  • 13C

Abstract

We investigate sources of both dissolved and particulate organic carbon in the St Lawrence River from its source (the Great Lakes outlet) to its estuary, as well as in two of its tributaries. Special attention is given to seasonal interannual patterns by using data collected on a bi-monthly basis from mid-1998 to mid-2003. δ13C measurements in dissolved inorganic carbon, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and particulate organic carbon (POC), as well as molar C : N in particulate organic matter (POM), are used to bring insight into the dynamic between aquatic versus terrigenous sources. In addition, 14C activities of DOC were measured at the outlet of the St Lawrence River to its estuary to assess a mean age of the DOC exported to the estuary. In the St Lawrence River itself, aquatically produced POC dominates terrestrially derived POC and is depleted in 13C by approximately 12‰ versus dissolved CO2. In the Ottawa River, the St Lawrence River's most important tributary, the present dataset did not allow for convincing deciphering of POC sources. In a small tributary of the St Lawrence River, aquatically produced POC dominates in summer and terrestrially derived POC dominates in winter. DOC seems to be dominated by terrestrially derived organic matter at all sampling sites, with some influence of DOC derived from aquatically produced POC in summer in the St Lawrence River at the outlet of the Great Lakes and in one of its small tributaries. The overall bulk DOC is relatively recent (14C generally exceeding 100% modern carbon) in the St Lawrence River at its outlet to the estuary, suggesting that it derives mainly from recent organic matter from topsoils in the watershed. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.