Tracing of particulate organic C sources across the terrestrial-aquatic continuum, a case study at the catchment scale (Carminowe Creek, southwest England)
Science of the Total Environment
© 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Reason for embargo
Soils deliver crucial ecosystem services, such as climate regulation through carbon (C) storage and food security, both of which are threatened by climate and land use change. While soils are important stores of terrestrial C, anthropogenic impact on the lateral fluxes of C from land to water remains poorly quantified and not well represented in Earth system models. In this study, we tested a novel framework for tracing and quantifying lateral C fluxes from the terrestrial to the aquatic environment at a catchment scale. The combined use of conservative plant-derived geochemical biomarkers n-alkanes and bulk stable δ(13)C and δ(15)N isotopes of soils and sediments allowed us to distinguish between particulate organic C sources from different land uses (i.e. arable and temporary grassland vs. permanent grassland vs. riparian woodland vs. river bed sediments) (p<0.001), showing an enhanced ability to distinguish between land use sources as compared to using just n-alkanes alone. The terrestrial-aquatic proxy (TAR) ratio derived from n-alkane signatures indicated an increased input of terrestrial-derived organic matter (OM) to lake sediments over the past 60years, with an increasing contribution of woody vegetation shown by the C27/C31 ratio. This may be related to agricultural intensification, leading to enhanced soil erosion, but also an increase in riparian woodland that may disconnect OM inputs from arable land uses in the upper parts of the study catchment. Spatial variability of geochemical proxies showed a close coupling between OM provenance and riparian land use, supporting the new conceptualization of river corridors (active river channel and riparian zone) as critical zones linking the terrestrial and aquatic C fluxes. Further testing of this novel tracing technique shows promise in terms of quantification of lateral C fluxes as well as targeting of effective land management measures to reduce soil erosion and promote OM conservation in river catchments.
This work was supported by the University of Exeter Strategic Science Development Fund under the project 'Linking the terrestrial and aquatic carbon fluxes at a catchment scale’ and UK Natural Environment Research Council GW4 + Research Experience Placement Scheme under the project title 'Linking the terrestrial and aquatic carbon cycles to improve global Earth Systems Models'.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Elsevier via the DOI in this record.
Published online 6 November 2017
- Geography 
Place of publication