Sources, Composition, and Export of Particulate Organic Matter Across British Estuaries

García‐Martín, EE, Sanders, R, Evans, CD, Kitidis, V, Lapworth, DJ, Spears, BM, Tye, A, Williamson, JL, Balfour, C, Best, M, Bowes, MJ, Breimann, S, Brown, IJ, Burden, A, Callaghan, N, Dise, NB, Farr, G, Felgate, SL, Fishwick, J, Fraser, M, Gibb, S, Gilbert, PJ, Godsell, N, Gomez‐Castillo, AP, Hargreaves, G, Harris, C, Jones, O, Kennedy, P, Lichtschlag, A, Martin, AP, May, R, Mawji, E, Mounteney, I, Nightingale, PD, Olszewska, J, Painter, SC, Pearce, CR, Pereira, MG, Peel, K, Pickard, A, Stephens, JA, Stinchcombe, MC, Thornton, B, Woodward, EMS, Yarrow, D and Mayor, DJ 2023 Sources, Composition, and Export of Particulate Organic Matter Across British Estuaries. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 128 (4).

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Estuaries receive and process a large amount of particulate organic carbon (POC) prior to its export into coastal waters. Studying the origin of this POC is key to understanding the fate of POC and the role of estuaries in the global carbon cycle. Here, we evaluated the concentrations of POC, as well as particulate organic nitrogen (PON), and used stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes to assess their sources across 13 contrasting British estuaries during five different sampling campaigns over 1 year. We found a high variability in POC and PON concentrations across the salinity gradient, reflecting inputs, and losses of organic material within the estuaries. Catchment land cover appeared to influence the contribution of POC to the total organic carbon flux from the estuary to coastal waters, with POC contributions >36% in estuaries draining catchments with a high percentage of urban/suburban land, and <11% in estuaries draining catchments with a high peatland cover. There was no seasonal pattern in the isotopic composition of POC and PON, suggesting similar sources for each estuary over time. Carbon isotopic ratios were depleted (−26.7 ± 0.42‰, average ± sd) at the lowest salinity waters, indicating mainly terrigenous POC (TPOC). Applying a two-source mixing model, we observed high variability in the contribution of TPOC at the highest salinity waters between estuaries, with a median value of 57%. Our results indicate a large transport of terrigenous organic carbon into coastal waters, where it may be buried, remineralized, or transported offshore.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Divisions: Plymouth Marine Laboratory > National Capability categories > Long-term Multi-Centre LOCATE
Plymouth Marine Laboratory > Science Areas > Marine Biochemistry and Observations
Depositing User: S Hawkins
Date made live: 20 Apr 2023 12:10
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2023 12:10

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