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Inorganic carbon dominates total dissolved carbon concentrations and fluxes in British rivers: application of the THINCARB model – thermodynamic modelling of inorganic carbon in freshwaters

Jarvie, Helen P.; King, Stephen M.; Neal, Colin. 2017 Inorganic carbon dominates total dissolved carbon concentrations and fluxes in British rivers: application of the THINCARB model – thermodynamic modelling of inorganic carbon in freshwaters. Science of the Total Environment, 575. 496-512. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.08.201

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Abstract/Summary

River water-quality studies rarely measure dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) routinely, and there is a gap in our knowledge of the contributions of DIC to aquatic carbon fluxes and cycling processes. Here, we present the THINCARB model (THermodynamic modelling of INorganic CARBon), which uses widely-measured determinands (pH, alkalinity and temperature) to calculate DIC concentrations, speciation (bicarbonate, HCO3−; carbonate, CO32 −; and dissolved carbon dioxide, H2CO3⁎) and excess partial pressures of carbon dioxide (EpCO2) in freshwaters. If calcium concentration measurements are available, THINCARB also calculates calcite saturation. THINCARB was applied to the 39-year Harmonised Monitoring Scheme (HMS) dataset, encompassing all the major British rivers discharging to the coastal zone. Model outputs were combined with the HMS dissolved organic carbon (DOC) datasets, and with spatial land use, geology, digital elevation and hydrological datasets. We provide a first national-scale evaluation of: the spatial and temporal variability in DIC concentrations and fluxes in British rivers; the contributions of DIC and DOC to total dissolved carbon (TDC); and the contributions to DIC from HCO3− and CO32 − from weathering sources and H2CO3⁎ from microbial respiration. DIC accounted for > 50% of TDC concentrations in 87% of the HMS samples. In the seven largest British rivers, DIC accounted for an average of 80% of the TDC flux (ranging from 57% in the upland River Tay, to 91% in the lowland River Thames). DIC fluxes exceeded DOC fluxes, even under high-flow conditions, including in the Rivers Tay and Tweed, draining upland peaty catchments. Given that particulate organic carbon fluxes from UK rivers are consistently lower than DOC fluxes, DIC fluxes are therefore also the major source of total carbon fluxes to the coastal zone. These results demonstrate the importance of accounting for DIC concentrations and fluxes for quantifying carbon transfers from land, via rivers, to the coastal zone.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.08.201
CEH Sections: CEH fellows
Rees (from October 2014
ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: carbon, alkalinity, freshwater, macronutrient, cycle, flux
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Hydrology
Chemistry
Date made live: 09 Jan 2017 17:49 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/515700

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