Articles | Volume 12, issue 20
Research article
26 Oct 2015
Research article |  | 26 Oct 2015

Air–water fluxes and sources of carbon dioxide in the Delaware Estuary: spatial and seasonal variability

A. Joesoef, W.-J. Huang, Y. Gao, and W.-J. Cai

Abstract. Distributions of surface water partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) were measured on nine cruises in the Delaware Estuary (USA). The Delaware River was highly supersaturated in pCO2 with respect to the atmosphere during all seasons, while the Delaware Bay was undersaturated in pCO2 during spring and late summer and moderately supersaturated during mid-summer, fall, and winter. While the smaller upper tidal river was a strong CO2 source (27.1 ± 6.4 mol-C m−2 yr−1), the much larger bay was a weak source (1.2 ± 1.4 mol-C m−2 yr−1), the latter of which had a much greater area than the former. In turn, the Delaware Estuary acted as a relatively weak CO2 source (2.4 ± 4.8 mol-C m−2 yr−1), which is in great contrast to many other estuarine systems. Seasonally, pCO2 changes were greatest at low salinities (0 ≤ S < 5), with pCO2 values in the summer nearly 3-fold greater than those observed in the spring and fall. Undersaturated pCO2 was observed over the widest salinity range (7.5 ≤ S < 30) during spring. Near to supersaturated pCO2 was generally observed in mid- to high-salinity waters (20 ≤ S < 30) except during spring and late summer. Strong seasonal trends in internal estuarine production and consumption of CO2 were observed throughout both the upper tidal river and lower bay. Positive correlations between river-borne and air–water CO2 fluxes in the upper estuary emphasize the significance of river-borne CO2 degassing to overall CO2 fluxes. While river-borne CO2 degassing heavily influenced CO2 dynamics in the upper tidal river, these forces were largely compensated for by internal biological processes within the extensive bay system of the lower estuary.

Short summary
In this paper, we report the first seasonal distribution of pCO2 and air–water CO2 flux in the Delaware Estuary. We further assess the temperature and biological effects on pCO2 distributions as well as the overall contribution of internal versus riverine sources on CO2 inputs to the estuarine system. Finally, we present a summarized pCO2 distribution over the study area and provide a conceptual model to illustrate the control mechanisms on surface water CO2 dynamics in the Delaware Estuary.
Final-revised paper