Carbon export and HCO3- fate in carbonate catchments: A case study in the karst plateau of southwestern China

Shilu Wang, Kevin M. Yeager, Guojiang Wan, Congqiang Liu, Yuchun Wang, Yingchun Lü

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The consumption of CO 2 due to carbonate weathering is thought to be an important terrestrial sink for atmospheric CO 2. However, the reaction and fate of weathering products may significantly affect the magnitude of the sink. Carbon mass balances were determined in Hongfeng Lake, a small artificial lake located in the carbonate plateau of SW China. This was accomplished by measuring the concentrations of DIC (dissolved inorganic C), DOC (dissolved organic C), POC (particulate organic C), and CO 2 partial pressure in lake waters, inflows and outflows, and in surrounding spring waters. Results show that maximum DIC (mainly HCO3- derived from carbonate weathering by CO 2) to DOC ratios in the catchment export load reach ~21, implying that as much as ~80% of the exported primary production is in the form of HCO3-, and, therefore, the CO 2 consumed by carbonate weathering and subsequent DIC export is a critical component of the C balance in this ecosystem. This exported HCO3- subsidizes C cycling of aquatic ecosystems in the catchment, and 32% (excluding carbonate-derived C) returns to the atmosphere as CO 2 evasion through the fluvial and lacustrine water-air interface and 10% is stored in lake sediment. This lake has a small CO 2 emission rate (13.2±3.9mmolm -2d -1, or 0.097molm -2a -1 relative to catchment area) compared to mean values for many reservoirs found in temperate and tropical climatic zones. This is likely due in part to low organic C loads supplied by the karst-dominated catchment, and low lake water DOC concentrations. The estimate indicates that more C (39%) returns to the atmosphere and much less (13%) is stored in sediments, implying that the C sink of carbonate weathering may not be as significant as once thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-72
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are indebted to our colleagues H. Xiao, W. Yang, N. An and F. Liu for assistance in the field and laboratory. This work was supported by the major projects on control and rectification of water body pollution (2009ZX07101-013) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (40873013, 41173025, and U0833603).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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