Dynamics of CO2 in a karst catchment in the southwestern plateau, China

Shilu Wang, Kevin M. Yeager, Guojiang Wan, Cong Qiang Liu, Fang Liu, Yingchun Lü

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Inland waters, including rivers and lakes, are increasingly recognized as playing significant roles in the transport, mineralization and burial of organic carbon exported from land. However, in many areas, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) dominates the carbon export from catchments. Owing to different production processes and turnover times of organic versus inorganic carbon, CO2 emitted from rivers and lakes may have different impacts on global carbon cycling depending on its origin. Here, pCO2 and dissolved oxygen concentrations were determined, and the ratios of excess CO2 to O2 depletion (ΔCO2/ΔO2) were compared in spring water, river water and lake water in a carbonate catchment located in the southwestern plateau region of China. Results show that groundwater CO2 evasion, at 2.0 g C m−2year−1, is insignificant in terms of terrestrial carbon loss compared with soil CO2 emission. In the rivers, calcite precipitation due to oversaturation is an important mechanism for CO2 production in some seasons. In the lake, HCO3 contributed approximately 75 % of the total carbon supply to organic matter production and calcite deposition during seasons favoring photosynthesis. The seasons which had high ΔCO2/ΔO2 are the main periods of CO2 emission from the lake, and the extra CO2 may be produced from HCO3 titration by H+. Thus, lake CO2 evasion was controlled primarily by pH, not respiration. The spring, river, and lake waters mainly process DIC exported from the catchment, of which HCO3 is primarily derived from carbonate weathering by soil CO2 that, with extraordinarily high ΔCO2/ΔO2, may originate from sources including organic matter decomposition, root respiration (autotrophic), and acid dissolution. Therefore, freshwater CO2 emission is a return pathway of catchment soil CO2 to the atmosphere more than that of net primary production and net ecosystem production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2415-2427
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are indebted to our colleagues: H. Xiao, W. Yang, and N. An for assistance in the field and laboratory. This work was supported by the National Key Basic Research Program of China (2013CB956700) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41373137, 41173025, and 40873013).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • CO dynamics
  • Carbonate catchment
  • Ratio of excess CO to O depletion
  • Southwestern China
  • Spring-river–lake system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Pollution
  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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