, 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


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.


Nitrogen Carbon Rivers Exports Arctic Canada 



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.


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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

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