, Volume 88, Issue 4, pp 599-606

Transport of terrestrial organic carbon to the oceans by rivers: re-estimating flux- and burial rates

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Abstract

 This study re-estimates one important component in the global carbon cycle: the modern global fluviatile organic carbon discharge- and burial rates. According to these results, approximately 430×1012 g of terrestrial organic carbon are transported to the ocean in modern times. This amount is higher than the latest estimates but takes into account new data from Oceania not previously considered in global flux studies. However, only the minor amount of 10% or approximately 43×1012 gC year–1 is most likely buried in marine sediments. This amount is similar to the burial of marine organic carbon in the coastal ocean (55×1012 gC year–1). Adding both estimates gives approximately 100×1012 gC year–1, which is the value calculated by Berner (1982) for "terrestrial" deltaic-shelf sediments. However, the results in this study suggest that on a global scale the organic carbon content in coastal ocean sediments is not solely of terrestrial origin but a mixture of nearly equal amounts of marine and terrestrial organic carbon. The major part of the terrestrial organic carbon that enters the ocean by rivers (approximately 400×1012 gC year–1) seems to be either (a) remineralised in the ocean, whereas the mechanism by which the terrestrial organic carbon is oxidised in the ocean are unknown; or (b) is dispersed throughout the oceans and accumulates in pelagic sediments.

Received: 9 November 1998 / Accepted: 25 May 1999