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Impact of Carbonate Precipitation on Riverine Inorganic Carbon Mass Transport from a Mid-continent, Forested Watershed

By Kathryn Szramek and Lynn M. Walter


Physiochemical controls on the carbonate geochemistry of large river systems are important regulators of carbon exchange between terrestrial and marine reservoirs on human time scales. Although many studies have focused on large-scale river carbon fluxes, there are few investigations of mechanistic aspects of carbonate mass balance and transport at the catchment scale. We determined elemental and carbonate geochemistry and mass balances for net carbonate dissolution fluxes from the forested, mid-latitude Huron River watershed, established on carbonate-rich unconfined glacial drift aquifers. Shallow groundwaters are near equilibrium with respect to calcite at p CO 2 values up to 25 times atmospheric values. Surface waters are largely groundwater fed and exhibit chemical evolution due to CO 2 degassing, carbonate precipitation in lakes and wetlands, and anthropogenic introduction of road salts (NaCl and CaCl 2 ). Because the source groundwater Mg 2+ /HCO 3 − ratio is fairly constant, this parameter permits mass balances to be made between carbonate dissolution and back precipitation after groundwater discharge. Typically, precipitation does not occur until IAP/K calcite values exceed 10 times supersaturation. Stream chemistry changes little thereafter even though streams remain highly supersaturated for calcite. Our data taken together with historical United States Geological Survey (USGS) data show that alkalinity losses to carbonate precipitation are most significant during periods of lowest discharge. Thus, on an annual basis, the large carbon flux from carbonate dissolution in soil zones is only decreased by a relatively small amount by the back precipitation of calcium carbonate

Publisher: Kluwer Academic Publishers; Springer Science+Business Media
Year: 2004
DOI identifier: 10.1023/B:AQUA.0000038960.63501.5b
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