15 Aug 2023
 | 15 Aug 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Long-term reduction in CO2 emissions from the Elbe River due to water quality improvement

Mingyang Tian, Jens Hartmann, Gibran Romero-Mujalli, Thorben Amann, Lishan Ran, and Ji-Hyung Park

Abstract. Polluted rivers transport and transform large quantities of anthropogenically-derived organic carbon to coastal regions, and account for an unneglectable share of global CO2 emissions. Effective river water management can enhance water quality and reduce CO2 emissions from the surface water to the atmosphere. However, the effect of water management on future riverine CO2 emissions remains a topic yet to be explored. In this context, the effects of water quality on riverine carbon dynamics were evaluated by examining the temporal variations in carbon fluxes from the Elbe River during a climate base period (around 30 years) from 1984 to 2018. The analysis of long-term data reveals that annual CO2 emissions from the Elbe River have decreased from 3.8±1.7 Tg C yr–1 in 1984 to 1.3±0.6 Tg C yr–1 in 2018 (1 T = 1012), and the largest reduction occurred after the initial decade of reunification of Germany. The changes in wastewater treatment have largely reduced nutrient loads, mitigated eutrophication, impacted the quality of the transported carbon to the ocean, resulting in concurrent decreases in CO2 emissions. The long-term trends in the Elbe River underscore the importance of water quality management for mitigating CO2 emissions from polluted rivers around the globe.

Mingyang Tian 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-2023-131', Anonymous Referee #1, 12 Sep 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2023-131', Anonymous Referee #2, 19 Sep 2023
  • CC1: 'Comment on bg-2023-131', Matthias Koschorreck, 20 Sep 2023

Mingyang Tian et al.

Mingyang Tian et al.


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Short summary
Effective water quality management in the Elbe River from 1984 to 2018 significantly reduced CO2 emissions, particularly after Germany's reunification. Key factors in the reduction include organic carbon removal and nutrient management, with nitrogen control being more critical than phosphorus for the restoration of ecosystem capacity. Unpredictable influxes of organic carbon and the relocation of emissions from wastewater treatment can cause uncertainties for CO2 removals.