Advertisement

Biogeochemistry

, Volume 115, Issue 1–3, pp 195–211 | Cite as

Riverine nitrogen and carbon exports from the Canadian landmass to estuaries

  • Thomas A. ClairEmail author
  • Ian F. Dennis
  • Simon Bélanger
Article

Abstract

Dissolved total nitrogen (Nt) and total organic carbon (TOC) exports were measured from 30 catchments and regions draining 76 % of the Canadian landscape in order to estimate reactive N and organic C runoff losses to estuaries and the conditions that control them. N exports from the catchments were lower than measured in most of Europe and the United States due to significantly less agricultural activity and atmospheric deposition, especially in northern Canada. We produce statistical models using a number of geographical, climatic, agricultural, and population factors in order to predict N and C losses from the remaining regions. Using measured and extrapolated data, we estimated that the Canadian landscape exports 884 and 18,210 ktons of Nt and OC per year. Area normalized exports ranged from 29.4 kg km−2 for the northern Mackenzie River to 299 kg km−2 for the semi-agricultural Saint John. Area normalized OC exports ranged from 495 kg km−2 in the high Arctic to 7,295 to the wetland dominated Broadback River in northern Quebec. N exports were best predicted by the latitude of the catchment centroid, mean slope, population density, runoff and % of the catchment as agricultural land. The best model for predicting TOC exports needed only slope and runoff. The Nt/OC ratio in the rivers unsurprisingly was highest in the southern portion of the country where anthropogenic activities were concentrated.

Keywords

Nitrogen Carbon Rivers Exports Arctic Canada 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Roger Shetagne of Hydro Québec, Allison Zacharias of the Manitoba/Manitoba Hydro Coordinated Aquatic Monitoring Program and Elaine Page of Manitoba Water Stewardship for providing data from rivers draining into Hudson Bay. Thomas Jaegler of the University of Québec assisted with St Lawrence basin database contributions. From Environment Canada, Joseph Culp provided data from the Arctic, Denis Parent from the Atlantic Region, Myriam Rondeau for the St Lawrence, and Nancy Glozier for the Prairie and northern rivers. Finally, we thank the Associate Editor and two reviewers whose patience and constructive comments allowed us to improve our original submission.

References

  1. Alvarez-Cobelas M, Angeler DG, Sanchez-Carrillo S, Almendros G (2012) A worldwide view of organic carbon export from catchments. Biogeochemistry 107:275–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnett PJ, Yeung KH, McCallum JD (2011) Surficial geology of the Harricana River area northwest, northern Ontario. Ontario Geological Survey: preliminary map P.3751, scale 3751:3100 3000Google Scholar
  3. Behrendt H, Opitz D (2000) Retention of nutrients in river systems: dependence on specific runoff and hydraulic load. Hydrobiology 410:111–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Billen G, Silvestre M, Grizzetti B, Leip A, Garnier J, Voss M, Howarth R, Bouraoui F, Lepistö A, Kortelainen P, Johnes P, Curtis C, Humborg C, Smedberg E, Kaste Ø, Ganeshram R, Beusen A, Lancelot C (2011) Nitrogen flows from European regional watersheds to coastal marine waters. In: Sutton MA, Howard CM, Erisman JW, Billen G, Bleeker A, Grennfelt P, van Grinsven H, Grizzetti B (eds) The European nitrogen assessment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 272–297Google Scholar
  5. Boyer EW, Howarth RW (2008) Nitrogen fluxes from rivers to the coastal ocean. In: Capone DG, Bronk DA, Mulholland MR, Carpenter EJ (eds) Nitrogen in the marine environment, 2nd edn. Academic Press, New York, pp 1565–1587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boyer EW, Howarth RW, Galloway JN, Dentener FJ, Green PA, Vörösmarty CJ (2006a) Riverine nitrogen export from the continents to the coasts. Glob Biogeochem Cycl 20:GB1S91. doi: 10.1029/2005GB002537 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boyer EW, Alexander RB, Parton WJ, Li C, Butterbach-Bahl K, Donner SD, Skaggs RW, Del Grosso SJ (2006b) Modeling denitrification in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems at regional scales. Ecol Appl 16(6):2123–2142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clair TA, Pollock TL, Ehrman JM (1994) Exports of carbon and nitrogen from river basins in Canada’s Atlantic provinces. Glob Biogeochem Cycl 8:441–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clair TA, Ehrman JM, Higuchi K (1999) Changes in freshwater carbon exports from Canadian terrestrial basins to lakes and estuaries under a 2xCO2 atmospheric scenario. Glob Biogeochem Cycl 13:1091–1097CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cole J, Prairie Y, Caraco N, McDowell W, Tranvik L, Striegl R, Duarte C, Kortelainen P, Downing J, Middelburg J, Melack J (2007) Plumbing the global carbon cycle: integrating inland waters into the terrestrial carbon budget. Ecosystems 10(1):172–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cronan C (2012) Biogeochemistry of the Penobscot River watershed, Maine, USA: nutrient export patterns for carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Environ Monit Assess 184(7):4279–4288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diaz RJ, Rosenberg R (2008) Spreading dead zones and consequences for marine ecosystems. Science 321:926–929CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Emmerton CA, Lesack LFW, Marsh P (2007) Lake abundance, potential water storage, and habitat distribution in the Mackenzie River delta, western Canadian Arctic. Water Resour Res 43:W05419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Galloway JN, Townsend AR, Erisman JW, Bekunda M, Cai Z, Freney JR, Martinelli LA, Seitzinger SP, Sutton MA (2008) Transformation of the nitrogen cycle: recent trends, questions, and potential solutions. Science 320:889–892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gergel SE, Turner MG, Kratz TK (1999) Dissolved organic carbon as an indicator of the scale of watershed influence on lakes and rivers. Ecol Appl 9:1377–1390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Goolsby DA, Battaglin WA (2001) Long-term changes in concentrations and flux of nitrogen in the Mississippi River Basin, USA. Hydrol Process 15:1209–1226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Green PA, Vörösmarty CJ, Meybeck M, Galloway JN, Peterson BJ, Boyer EW (2004) Pre-industrial and contemporary fluxes of nitrogen through rivers: a global assessment based on typology. Biogeochemistry 68:71–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gruber N, Galloway JN (2008) An Earth-system perspective of the global nitrogen cycle. Nature 451:293–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Holeton C, Chambers PA, Grace L (2011) Wastewater release and its impacts on Canadian waters. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 68:1836–1859CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Holmes R, McClelland J, Peterson B, Tank S, Bulygina E, Eglinton T, Gordeev V, Gurtovaya T, Raymond P, Repeta D, Staples R, Striegl R, Zhulidov A, Zimov S (2012) Seasonal and annual fluxes of nutrients and organic matter from large rivers to the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas. Estuaries Coasts 35:369–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Howarth R, Billen G, Swaney D, Townsend A, Jaworski N, Lajtha K, Downing J, Elmgren R, Caraco N, Jordan T, Berendse F, Freney J, Kudeyarov V, Murdoch P, Zhao-Liang Z (1996) Regional nitrogen budgets and riverine N & P fluxes for the drainages to the north Atlantic Ocean: natural and human influences. Biogeochemistry 35:75–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Howarth RW, Swaney DP, Boyer EW, Marino R, Jaworski N, Goodale C (2006) The influence of climate on average nitrogen export from large watersheds in the Northeastern United States. Biogeochemistry 79:163–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Howarth R, Swaney D, Billen G, Garnier J, Hong B, Humborg C, Johnes P, Mörth C-M, Marino R (2012) Nitrogen fluxes from the landscape are controlled by net anthropogenic nitrogen inputs and by climate. Front Ecol Environ 10:37–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Khalili MI, Temnerud J, Fröberg M, Karltun E, Weyhenmeyer GA (2010) Nitrogen and carbon interactions between boreal soils and lakes. Glob Biogeochem Cycl 24(4):GB4011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Koprivnjak JF, Blanchette JG, Bourbonniere RA, Clair TA, Heyes A, Lum KR, McRae R, Moore TR (1995) The underestimation of concentrations of dissolved organic carbon in freshwaters. Water Res 29:91–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kroeze C, Bouwman L, Seitzinger S (2012) Modeling global nutrient export from watersheds. Curr Opin Environ Sustainability 4(2):195–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lauerwald R, Hartmann J, Ludwig W, Moosdorf N (2012) Assessing the nonconservative fluvial fluxes of dissolved organic carbon in North America. J Geophys Res 117(G1):G01027CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lewis WM, Melack JM, McDowell WH, McClain M, Richey JE (1999) Nitrogen yields from undisturbed watersheds in the Americas. Biogeochemistry 46:149–162Google Scholar
  29. Moran MD, Zheng Q, Pavlovic R, Cousineau S, Bouchet VS, Sassi M, Makar PA, Gong W, Stroud C (2008) Predicted acid deposition critical-load exceedances across Canada from a one-year simulation with a regional particulate-matter model. Proceedings of the 15th Joint AMS/A&WMA conference on applications of air pollution meteorology, American Meteorological Society, New Orleans, Jan. 21–24Google Scholar
  30. Pocklington R, Tan FC (1987) Seasonal and annual variations in the organic matter contributed by the St Lawrence River to the Gulf of St Lawrence. Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta 51(9):2579–2586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Raymond PA, McClelland JW, Holmes RM, Zhulidov AV, Mull K, Peterson BJ, Striegl RG, Aiken GR, Gurtovaya TY (2007) Flux and age of dissolved organic carbon exported to the Arctic Ocean: a carbon isotopic study of the five largest arctic rivers. Glob Biogeochem Cycl 21(4):GB4011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rosa E, Hillaire-Marcel C, Ghaleb B, Dick TA (2012) Environmental and seasonal controls on riverine dissolved uranium in the Hudson, James, and Ungava bays region, Canada. Can J Earth Sci 49:758–771CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schaefer S, Hollibaugh JT, Alber M (2009) Watershed nitrogen input and riverine export on the west coast of the US. Biogeochemistry 93:219–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schlesinger WH, Reckhow KH, Bernhardt ES (2006) Global change: the nitrogen cycle and rivers. Water Resour Res 42:385–409. doi: 10.1029/2005WR004300 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schlünz B, Schneider RR (2000) Transport of terrestrial organic carbon to the oceans by rivers: re-estimating flux- and burial rates. Int J Earth Sci 88:599–606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Scott D, Harvey J, Alexander R, Schwarz G (2007) Dominance of organic nitrogen from headwater streams to large rivers across the conterminous United States. Glob Biogeochem Cycl 21:GB1003CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Scott KJ, McCullough G, Stainton M, Ayles B, Hann B (2011) Lake Winnipeg—state of the science: what is the scientific basis for understanding and protecting lake Winnipeg? Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium Inc., Science Workshop. Winnipeg, Canada, p 178Google Scholar
  38. Seitzinger S, Harrison JA, Böhlke JK, Bouwman AF, Lowrance R, Peterson B, Tobias C, Drecht GV (2006) Denitrification across landscapes and waterscapes: a synthesis. Ecol Appl 16:2064–2090CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Spence C, Burke A (2008) Estimates of Canadian Arctic Archipelago runoff from observed hydrometric data. J Hydrol 362:247–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Striegl RG, Dornblaser MM, Aiken GR, Wickland KP, Raymond PA (2007) Carbon export and cycling by the Yukon, Tanana, and Porcupine rivers, Alaska, 2001–2005. Water Resour Res 43:WO2411. doi: 10.1029/2006WR005201 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sutton MA, Howard CM, Erisman JW, Billen G, Bleeker A, Grennfelt P, van Grinsven H, Grizzetti B (2011) The European nitrogen assessment. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Swaney DP, Hong B, Ti C, Howarth RW, Humborg C (2012) Net anthropogenic nitrogen inputs to watersheds and riverine N export to coastal waters: a brief overview. Curr Opin Environ Sustainability 4:203–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Thomas H, Shadwick E, Dehairs F, Lansard B, Mucci A, Navez J, Gratton Y, Prowe F, Chierici M, Fransson A, Papakyriakou TN, Sternberg E, Miller LA, Tremblay J-É, Monnin C (2011) Barium and carbon fluxes in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. J Geophys Res 116:C00G08CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vet R, Brook J, Ro C-U, Shaw M, Narayan J, Zhang L, Moran MA, Lusis M (2005) Atmospheric Response to Past Emission Control Programs, Chapter 3, Canadian 2004 acid deposition science assessment. Government of Canada, Canada pp 15-98Google Scholar
  45. Vörösmarty CJ, Fekete BM, Meybeck M, Lammers RB (2000) Global system of rivers: its role in organizing continental land mass and defining land-to-ocean linkages. Glob Biogeochem Cycl 14:599–621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wollheim WM, Vörösmarty CJ, Bouwman AF, Green P, Harrison J, Linder E, Peterson BJ, Seitzinger SP, Syvitski JPM (2008) Global N removal by freshwater aquatic systems using a spatially distributed, within-basin approach. Glob Biogeochem Cycl 22(2):GB2026CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zbieranowski AL, Aherne J (2011) Long-term trends in atmospheric reactive nitrogen across Canada: 1988–2007. Atmos Environ 45:5853–5862CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas A. Clair
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ian F. Dennis
    • 3
  • Simon Bélanger
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Earth ScienceDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Environment Canada, Water Science and Technology DirectorateDartmouthCanada
  3. 3.Environment Canada, Water Science and Technology DirectorateSackvilleCanada
  4. 4.Groupe BORÉAS, Département de Biologie, Chimie et GéographieUniversité du Québec à RimouskiRimouskiCanada

Personalised recommendations