The origins and behaviour of carbon in a major semi-arid river, the Murray River, Australia, as constrained by carbon isotopes and hydrochemistry

Ian Cartwright

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    27 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    δ13C values of dissolved inorganic C (DIC), dissolved organic C (DOC), and particulate organic C (POC) together with δ18O and δ2H values of water, δ34S values of dissolved SO4, and major ion concentrations were measured in the Murray River and its tributaries between November 2005 and April 2007 to constrain the origins and behaviour of riverine C δ13CDIC values in the Murray River vary between -9.5 and -4.7‰ with a range of <3‰ within any sampling round δ13CDIC values of the tributaries are -11.0‰ to -5.1‰. DIC concentrations of the Murray River increase from ~25mg/L in the middle and upper reaches of the river to 45-55mg/L in the lower reaches. However, the mass ratio of DIC as a proportion of the total dissolved solids (TDS) decreases from ~0.6-0.7 in the headwaters to ~0.2-0.3 in the lower reaches of the river, with similar downstream changes in DIC/Cl ratios. This precludes simple evaporative concentration of DIC and is interpreted as the river evading CO2; this interpretation is consistent with pCO2 values that are in the range 550-11,200ppm volume (ppmv), which are far higher than those in equilibrium with the atmosphere (~360ppmv). The δ13CDIC values are similar to those that would be produced by the weathering of marine limestone (δ13C~0‰). However, the lack of marine limestones cropping out in the Murray-Darling Basin and the relatively uniform δ13CDIC values of the Murray River (even in upland reaches where the dominant rock types are metamorphosed silicates and granites) make this unlikely. Rather the high pCO2 values and δ13CDIC values are best explained by a combination of mineralisation of low δ13C organic C and evasion to the atmosphere. The rate of these two processes may attain near steady state and control both DIC concentrations and δ13C values.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1734-1745
    Number of pages12
    JournalApplied Geochemistry
    Volume25
    Issue number11
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

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