Articles | Volume 11, issue 13
Biogeosciences, 11, 3635–3645, 2014
Biogeosciences, 11, 3635–3645, 2014

Research article 04 Jul 2014

Research article | 04 Jul 2014

Old carbon contributes to aquatic emissions of carbon dioxide in the Amazon

L. E. Vihermaa1, S. Waldron1, M. H. Garnett2, and J. Newton3 L. E. Vihermaa et al.
  • 1School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  • 2NERC Radiocarbon Facility, East Kilbride, UK
  • 3Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), East Kilbride, UK

Abstract. Knowing the rate at which carbon is cycled is crucial to understanding the dynamics of carbon transfer pathways. Recent technical developments now support measurement of the 14C age of evaded CO2 from fluvial systems, which provides an important "fingerprint" of the source of C. Here we report the first direct measurements of the 14C age of effluxed CO2 from two small streams and two rivers within the western Amazonian Basin. The rate of degassing and hydrochemical controls on degassing are also considered. We observe that CO2 efflux from all systems except for the seasonal small stream was 14C-depleted relative to the contemporary atmosphere, indicating a contribution from "old" carbon fixed before ~ 1955 AD. Further, "old" CO2 was effluxed from the perennial stream in the rainforest; this was unexpected as here connectivity with the contemporary C cycle is likely greatest. The effluxed gas represents all sources of CO2 in the aquatic system and thus we used end-member analysis to identify the relative inputs of fossil, modern and intermediately aged C. The most likely solutions indicated a contribution from fossil carbon sources of between 3 and 9% which we interpret as being derived from carbonate weathering. This is significant as the currently observed intensification of weather has the potential to increase the future release of old carbon, which can be subsequently degassed to the atmosphere, and so renders older, slower C cycles faster. Thus 14C fingerprinting of evaded CO2 provides understanding which is essential to more accurately model the carbon cycle in the Amazon Basin.

Final-revised paper