Aquatic Sciences

, 81:22 | Cite as

Dissolved carbon, greenhouse gases, and δ13C dynamics in four estuaries across a land use gradient

  • Arun Looman
  • Isaac R. Santos
  • Douglas R. Tait
  • Jackie Webb
  • Ceylena Holloway
  • Damien T. Maher
Research Article


Land use is a well known driver of nutrient dynamics in estuaries, however less is known about how land use may influence the coastal carbon (C) cycle. Here, we report dissolved carbon concentrations, δ13C isotopic signatures, and water–air CO2 and CH4 fluxes for four Australian estuaries with contrasting catchment land use ranging from 9 to 72% natural. Water samples were collected during dry and wet hydrologic extremes. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations were highest and total dissolved nitrogen and dissolved phosphorous were lowest in the least impacted estuary (Pine Creek). The DOC δ13C signature was enriched for the estuary with 91% urban-agricultural land use (Coffs Creek), implying a shift in the source of DOC along the land use gradient. Low DOC and high nutrient availability decreased CO2 fluxes to the atmosphere in the impacted systems during both wet and dry conditions, and increased CH4 concentrations and fluxes during the wet conditions. Variability of CO2 and CH4 were influenced by multiple drivers including hydrologic forcing, dissolved nutrients, as well as shifts in the nature of allochthonous versus autochthonous sources within each estuary.


Carbon dioxide Methane Salinity gradient Land use Greenhouse gases Stable isotopes 



We acknowledge Summer Barron, Ashley McMahon, James Sippo, Mitchell Call and Damien Eggeling for their assistance with field surveys, and Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) for their assistance with logistics. We acknowledge funding from the Australian Research Council (DE140101733, DE150100581 and LE120100156).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

27_2018_617_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.8 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1800 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Marine Science CentreSouthern Cross UniversityCoffs HarbourAustralia
  2. 2.School of Environment, Science, and EngineeringSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada
  4. 4.Southern Cross GeoscienceSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia

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