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Climate and atmospheric deposition drive the inter-annual variability and long-term trend of dissolved organic carbon flux in...

by Xinyuan Wei
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Science of the Total Environment
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The lateral flux of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from soils to inland waters and ultimately to the ocean represents a fundamental component of the global carbon cycle. To estimate the DOC flux, we developed an empirical terrestrial-aquatic DOC fluxes model (TAF-DOC). TAF-DOC incorporates various environmental factors (e.g., meteorology, sulfur, and nitrogen deposition) that to-date have not been comprehensively considered or well-represented in existing modeling frameworks. TAF-DOC was applied to estimate spatial-temporal patterns of DOC flux and potential fates across the conterminous United States during the 1985 to 2018 time period. Our results suggest that TAF-DOC successfully characterized spatial-temporal of DOC flux. As expected, the interannual pattern of DOC flux was strongly regulated by precipitation, but the long-term trend was significantly influenced by the rate of atmospheric wet sulfur deposition. From 1985 to 2018, TAF-DOC estimated DOC loading from terrestrial to aquatic ecosystems in the conterminous United States to be 33.5 ± 2.2 TgC per year, which was roughly 0.39–0.49% of total soil organic carbon stock estimates. The dominant fate of terrestrially-derived DOC was delivery to the coastal ocean in riverine export (41%), with another 21% buried in sediment and the remaining 12.8 ± 0.4 TgC per year (38%) returned to the atmosphere through outgassing from inland waters. Assuming the quantities of DOC sediment burial and export to the ocean as an annual sink of terrestrially-derived carbon, budget inventories and models that do not account for DOC flux in the conterminous United States will underestimate the net annual carbon sink by as much as 5.5–6.4%.