Transformation of DIC into POC in a karst river system: evidence from δ13CDIC and δ13CPOC in Lijiang, Southwest China

Abstract

One of the most important questions in the science of global carbon cycle is how to balance the atmospheric CO2 budget. However, there is a large terrestrial carbon sink is missing. The locations, magnitudes, variations, and mechanisms responsible for this terrestrial missing carbon sink are uncertain and the focus of much continuing debate. In order to provide a basis for the assessment of carbonate weathering-related carbon sink, this study investigated the spatial and temporal variations of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and particulate organic carbon (POC), and used stable carbon isotopes and hydrochemical data to quantitatively estimate the proportion of DIC transformation to POC and analyze the potential influence of the transformation of DIC into OC on the carbon isotope composition in the Lijiang River (typical karst surface water), Southwest China. The results showed that DIC concentrations are high in winter and low in summer and increase from upstream to downstream. POC concentrations are high in summer and low in spring. δ13CPOC and δ13CDIC are negatively correlated in the Lijiang River. The δ13CDIC values are high in spring and low in summer, compared with the estimated δ13CDIC(cal.); the observed δ13CDIC values have a maximum positive shift in spring and similar in the summer; the δ13CPOC values decrease from upstream to downstream, and are high in summer and low in spring. These observations indicate that the isotopic compositions of both DIC and POC are significantly affected by aquatic photosynthesis that transforms DIC into OC. In-river primary production contribute 12–54% of POC, and the contributions of carbonate rock-sourced DIC to the riverine POC range from 7 to 30%, which suggests an important sink of atmospheric CO2 in river systems and should be taken into account in global carbon cycle.

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Acknowledgements

The study is financially supported by the Special Fund for Basic Scientific Research of Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences (YYWF201639), the Guangxi Natural Science Foundation (2016GXNSFAA380064; 2018GXNSFDA050002), and National Natural Science Foundation of China (41702277).

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Correspondence to Qiong Xiao.

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Zhao, H., Xiao, Q., Zhang, C. et al. Transformation of DIC into POC in a karst river system: evidence from δ13CDIC and δ13CPOC in Lijiang, Southwest China. Environ Earth Sci 79, 295 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-020-09039-7

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Keywords

  • Lijiang River
  • Dissolved inorganic carbon
  • Particulate organic carbon
  • δ13CPOC
  • δ13CDIC