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Human impact on long-term organic carbon export to rivers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)947-965
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Volume122
Issue number4
Early online date28 Apr 2017
DOIs
DateAccepted/In press - 21 Mar 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 28 Apr 2017
DatePublished (current) - Apr 2017

Abstract

Anthropogenic landscape alterations have increased global carbon transported by rivers to oceans since preindustrial times. Few suitable observational data sets exist to distinguish different drivers of carbon increase, given that alterations only reveal their impact on fluvial dissolved organic carbon (DOC) over long time periods. We use the world's longest record of DOC concentrations (130 years) to identify key drivers of DOC change in the Thames basin (UK). We show that 90% of the long-term rise in fluvial DOC is explained by increased urbanization, which released to the river 671 kt C over the entire period. This source of carbon is linked to rising population, due to increased sewage effluent. Soil disturbance from land use change explained shorter-term fluvial responses. The largest land use disturbance was during the Second World War, when almost half the grassland area in the catchment was converted into arable land, which released 45 kt C from soils to the river. Carbon that had built up in soils over decades was released to the river in only a few years. Our work suggests that widespread population growth may have a greater influence on fluvial DOC trends than previously thought.

    Research areas

  • dissolved organic carbon, urbanization, land use change, Thames basin, long-term trend

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    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via Wiley at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016JG003614/abstract. Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Final published version, 2 MB, PDF-document

    Licence: CC BY

  • Supplementary information PDF

    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via Wiley at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016JG003614/abstract. Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Final published version, 129 KB, PDF-document

    Licence: CC BY

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