23 May 2022
23 May 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

From soil to sea: Sources and transport of organic carbon traced by tetraether lipids and sediments in the monsoonal Godavari River, India

Frédérique M. S. A. Kirkels1, Huub M. Zwart1, Muhammed O. Usman2,a, Suning Hou1, Camilo Ponton3,b, Liviu Giosan3, Timothy I. Eglinton2, and Francien Peterse1 Frédérique M. S. A. Kirkels et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 2Geological Institute, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 3Geology & Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA
  • apresent address: Department of Physical & Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • bpresent address: Geology Department, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, USA

Abstract. Monsoonal rivers play an important role in the land-to-sea transport of soil-derived organic carbon (OC). However, spatial and temporal variation in the concentration, composition, and fate of OC in these rivers remains poorly understood. We investigate soil-to-sea transport of OC by the Godavari River in India using branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether (brGDGT) lipids in soils, river suspended particulate matter (SPM), riverbed sediments, and in a marine sediment core from the Bay of Bengal. The abundance and composition of brGDGTs in SPM and sediments in the Godavari River differs between the dry and wet season. In the dry season, 6-methyl brGDGTs dominate SPM and riverbed sediments in the whole basin. Currently, mobilisation and transport of soils from the upper basin is limited due to deficient rainfall and damming. This promotes aquatic brGDGT production in this part of the basin, which is reflected by a high relative abundance of 6-methyl brGDGTs in both seasons. In the wet season, brGDGT distributions in SPM from the lower basin closely resemble those in soils, mostly from the North and East Tributaries, corresponding to precipitation patterns. The brGDGT composition in SPM and sediments from the delta suggests that soil OC is only effectively transported to the Bay of Bengal in the wet season, when the river plume extends beyond the river mouth. The sediment geochemistry indicates that also the mineral particles exported by the Godavari River primarily originate from the lower basin, similar to the brGDGTs. River depth profiles of brGDGTs in the downstream Godavari reveal no hydrodynamic sorting effect in either season, indicating that brGDGTs are not associated with certain minerals. The similarity of brGDGT distributions in bulk and fine-grained sediments (≤63 μm) further confirms the absence of selective transport mechanisms. Nevertheless, the composition of brGDGTs in a Holocene, marine sediment core near the river mouth appears substantially different from that in the modern Godavari basin, suggesting that terrestrial-derived brGDGTs are rapidly lost upon discharge into the Bay of Bengal and/or overprinted by marine in situ production. The change in brGDGT distributions at the river-sea transition implies that this zone is key in the effective transfer of soil OC, as well as for the interpretation of paleorecords based on brGDGTs in coastal marine sediment archives.

Frédérique M. S. A. Kirkels et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2022-116', David Naafs, 21 Jun 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1 (David Naafs)', Francien Peterse, 18 Jul 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2022-116', Anonymous Referee #2, 07 Jul 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2 (Anonymous)', Francien Peterse, 18 Jul 2022

Frédérique M. S. A. Kirkels et al.

Data sets

Glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers in a Holocene sediment core (NGHP-01-16A) in front of the Godavari River in the Bay of Bengal (India) Kirkels F., Usman M., Hou, S., Ponton, C. and Peterse F

Branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers, crenarchaeol and geochemical parameters in soils, SPM and riverbed sediments in the Godavari River basin (India) Kirkels F., Zwart H., Usman, M. and Peterse F.

Frédérique M. S. A. Kirkels et al.


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Short summary
Soil organic carbon (SOC) that is transferred to the ocean by rivers forms a long-term sink of atmospheric CO2 upon burial on the ocean floor. We here test if certain bacterial membrane lipids can be used to trace SOC through the monsoon-fed Godavari River basin in India. We find that these lipids trace the mobilisation and transport of SOC in the wet season, but that these lipids are not transferred far into the sea. This suggests that the burial of SOC on the sea floor is limited here.