Riverine coupling of biogeochemical cycles between land, oceans, and atmosphere

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Abstract

Streams, rivers, lakes, and other inland waters are important agents in the coupling of biogeochemical cycles between continents, atmosphere, and oceans. The depiction of these roles in global-scale assessments of carbon (C) and other bioactive elements remains limited, yet recent findings suggest that C discharged to the oceans is only a fraction of that entering rivers from terrestrial ecosystems via soil respiration, leaching, chemical weathering, and physical erosion. Most of this C influx is returned to the atmosphere from inland waters as carbon dioxide (CO2) or buried in sedimentary deposits within impoundments, lakes, floodplains, and other wetlands. Carbon and mineral cycles are coupled by both erosion–deposition processes and chemical weathering, with the latter producing dissolved inorganic C and carbonate buffering capacity that strongly modulate downstream pH, biological production of calcium-carbonate shells, and CO2 outgassing in rivers, estuaries, and coastal zones. Human activities substantially affect all of these processes.

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