Sediment carbon fate in phreatic karst (Part 1): Conceptual model development

A. Husic, J. Fox, C. Agouridis, J. Currens, W. Ford, C. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent research has paid increased attention to quantifying the fate of carbon pools within fluvial networks, but few, if any, studies consider the fate of sediment organic carbon in fluviokarst systems despite that karst landscapes cover 12% of the earth's land surface. The authors develop a conceptual model of sediment carbon fate in karst terrain with specific emphasis upon phreatic karst conduits, i.e., those located below the groundwater table that have the potential to trap surface-derived sediment and turnover carbon. To assist with their conceptual model development, the authors study a phreatic system and apply a mixture of methods traditional and novel to karst studies, including electrical resistivity imaging, well drilling, instantaneous velocimetry, dye tracing, stage recording, discrete and continuous sediment and water quality sampling, and elemental and stable carbon isotope fingerprinting. Results show that the sediment transport carrying capacity of the phreatic karst water is orders of magnitude less than surface streams during storm-activated periods promoting deposition of fine sediments in the phreatic karst. However, the sediment transport carrying capacity is sustained long after the hydrologic event has ended leading to sediment resuspension and prolonged transport. The surficial fine grained laminae occurs in the subsurface karst system; but unlike surface streams, the light-limited conditions of the subsurface karst promotes constant heterotrophy leading to carbon turnover. The coupling of the hydrological processes leads to a conceptual model that frames phreatic karst as a biologically active conveyor of sediment carbon that recharges degraded organic carbon back to surface streams. For example, fluvial sediment is estimated to lose 30% of its organic carbon by mass during a one year temporary residence within the phreatic karst. It is recommended that scientists consider karst pathways when attempting to estimate organic matter stocks and carbon transformation in fluvial networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-193
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume549
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • Fingerprinting
  • Fluviokarst
  • Heterotrophic respiration
  • Organic carbon
  • Phreatic karst conduit
  • Sediment transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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