Journal of Oceanography

, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 307–319 | Cite as

Stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in suspended matter and sediments from the Godavari estuary

  • V. V. S. S. Sarma
  • J. Arya
  • Ch. V. Subbaiah
  • S. A. Naidu
  • L. Gawade
  • P. Praveen Kumar
  • N. P. C. Reddy
Original Article


Spatial distribution of the carbon and nitrogen content and their isotopic enrichment in suspended matter and sediments were measured in the Godavari estuary to identify the sources and transformation mechanism of organic matter. Significant variability in isotopic distribution was found over the entire length of the Godavari estuary, suggesting multiple sources of organic matter. The mean isotopic ratios (δ13Csed −25.1 ± 0.9, δ13Csus −24.9 ± 1, δ15Nsed 8.0 ± 2 and δ15Nsus 6.5 ± 0.9‰) and elemental concentrations (Csed 0.45 ± 0.2%, Csus 0.9 ± 0.7%, Nsed 0.07 ± 0.05% and Nsus 0.16 ± 0.1%) support a predominantly terrigenous source. Significant enrichment in the isotopic ratios of δ13C from the upper to lower estuary in both suspended (−27.5 and −24.3‰, respectively) and sedimentary (−26.2 and −24.9‰, respectively) phases indicates a decrease in the influence of terrigeneous material toward the mouth of the estuary. A significant positive relationship exists between the δ13C of suspended and sediment, which indicates that these two organic carbon pools are likely coupled in the form of a significant exchange between the two phases. A positive relationship exists between chlorophyll a and suspended organic matter, which may mean that a significant source of organic carbon is the in situ produced phytoplankton. But, applying a simple mixing model to our isotopes, data yielded about 46% as the contribution of the terrestrial source to suspended matter, which may support the excessive heterotrophic activity in the Godavari estuary reported earlier.


Stable isotopes Carbon cycling Biogeochemistry Terrigeneous organic matter Godavari estuary 



We would like to thank the Director of the National Institute of Oceanography and Dr. VSN Murty, scientist in charge of the regional centre, for their encouragement and support. We would like to acknowledge the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for financial support through the Supra Institutional Project (SIP 1308). We appreciate two anonymous reviewers and the editor-in-charge for their constructive comments and suggestions to improve the quality of the manuscript. This is NIO contribution number 5103.


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Copyright information

© The Oceanographic Society of Japan and Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. V. S. S. Sarma
    • 1
  • J. Arya
    • 1
  • Ch. V. Subbaiah
    • 1
  • S. A. Naidu
    • 1
  • L. Gawade
    • 1
  • P. Praveen Kumar
    • 1
  • N. P. C. Reddy
    • 1
  1. 1.National Institute of Oceanography, Regional Centre, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)VisakhapatnamIndia

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