, Volume 107, Issue 1, pp 275–293

A worldwide view of organic carbon export from catchments

  • M. Alvarez-Cobelas
  • D. G. Angeler
  • S. Sánchez-Carrillo
  • G. Almendros

DOI: 10.1007/s10533-010-9553-z

Cite this article as:
Alvarez-Cobelas, M., Angeler, D.G., Sánchez-Carrillo, S. et al. Biogeochemistry (2012) 107: 275. doi:10.1007/s10533-010-9553-z


Growing interest in the effects of global change on the metabolism, stoichiometry and cycling of carbon in aquatic ecosystems has motivated research on the export of organic carbon (OCE) from catchments. In this article, quantitative and functional features of the annual export rates of total, particulate and dissolved organic carbon (TOC, POC and DOC) were reviewed, and the stoichiometry of export (OC:N, OC:P and N:P) from 550 catchments worldwide was reported. TOC export ranged 2.1–92,474 kg C km−2 year−1, POC export ranged 0.4–73,979 kg C km−2 year−1 and DOC export ranged 1.2–56,946 kg C km−2 year−1. Exports of TOC and DOC were strongly linked, but POC export was unrelated to DOC. The DOC fraction comprised on average 73 ± 21% of TOC export. The export rates of organic carbon were poorly related to those of total nitrogen and total phosphorus. Discrete and continuous environmental variables failed to predict TOC export, but DOC export was influenced by discharge and catchment area worldwide. Models of OCE in different catchment types were controlled by different environmental variables; hydrological variables were generally better predictors of OCE than anthropogenic and soil variables. Elemental ratios of carbon export in most catchments were above the Redfield ratio, suggesting that phosphorus may become the limiting nutrient for downstream plant growth. These ratios were marginally related to environmental data. More detailed hydrological data, consideration of in-stream processes and the use of quasi-empirical dynamical models are advocated to improve our knowledge of OCE rates and those of other nutrients.


Controlling factorsClimatic regionsBiomesIn-stream processesStoichiometryNitrogenPhosphorus

Supplementary material

10533_2010_9553_MOESM1_ESM.doc (882 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 882 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM2_ESM.doc (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 1265 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM3_ESM.doc (34 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOC 34 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM4_ESM.doc (41 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOC 41 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM5_ESM.doc (695 kb)
Supplementary material 5 (DOC 695 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM6_ESM.doc (54 kb)
Supplementary material 6 (DOC 54 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM7_ESM.doc (48 kb)
Supplementary material 7 (DOC 48 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM8_ESM.doc (92 kb)
Supplementary material 8 (DOC 92 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM9_ESM.doc (44 kb)
Supplementary material 9 (DOC 45 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM10_ESM.doc (61 kb)
Supplementary material 10 (DOC 61 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM11_ESM.doc (60 kb)
Supplementary material 11 (DOC 60 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM12_ESM.doc (57 kb)
Supplementary material 12 (DOC 57 kb)
10533_2010_9553_MOESM13_ESM.doc (114 kb)
Supplementary material 13 (DOC 114 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Alvarez-Cobelas
    • 1
  • D. G. Angeler
    • 2
  • S. Sánchez-Carrillo
    • 1
  • G. Almendros
    • 1
  1. 1.CSIC-Institute of Natural ResourcesMadridSpain
  2. 2.Department of Aquatic Sciences and AssessmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden