Effects of aquatic phototrophs on seasonal hydrochemical, inorganic, and organic carbon variations in a typical karst basin, Southwest China

  • Ping’an SunEmail author
  • Shiyi He
  • Yaqiong Yuan
  • Shi Yu
  • Cheng Zhang
Research Article


Karst processes play an important role in the global carbon cycle. Aquatic phototrophs can transform bicarbonate, which is mainly derived from the weathering of carbonates, into organic carbon. Carbonate mineral weathering coupled with aquatic photosynthesis can be considered a stable and durable carbon sink process. In this study, we addressed seasonal variations in water chemistry in the Lijiang River Basin, which is a typical karst basin, through a comprehensive geochemical study of the river water in four seasons. The parameters were measured in situ, including major ions and isotopes of inorganic and organic carbon. The results showed that (1) DIC was mainly derived from the weathering of carbonates; (2) the transformation from bicarbonate to organic carbon by aquatic phototrophs was evident, and the water chemistry changed, especially in spring and autumn and in the mainstream from Guilin to Yangshuo, which benefited the growth of aquatic phototrophs; and (3) the organic carbon derived from bicarbonates by aquatic phototrophs was nearly half the total organic carbon and 8% of the dissolved inorganic carbon. These results imply that aquatic phototrophs in karst basins can significantly stabilize carbon originating from carbonate rock weathering processes in karst areas.


Karst processes Hydrochemistry Stable carbon isotope Aquatic phototrophs Lijiang River Basin 


Funding information

This study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41402238, 41402324), the Project of Natural Science Foundation of Guangxi (Grant Nos. 2016GXNSFBA380174, 2017GXNSFFA198006), the Project of Institute of Karst Geology, CAGS (2016001), and the Project of the China Geological Survey (DD20190022).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Karst Dynamics, Ministry of Natural Resources & Guangxi, Institute of Karst GeologyChinese Academy of Geological SciencesGuilinChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology, School of Environmental StudiesChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina

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