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The flux of carbon from rivers: the case for flux from England and Wales

Worrall, Fred, Guilbert, Tom, Besien, Tim
Biogeochemistry 2007 v.86 no.1 pp. 63-75
carbon dioxide, rivers, monitoring, calcium, data collection, watersheds, carbon sinks, particulate organic carbon, dissolved organic carbon, surface water, groundwater, biochemical oxygen demand, England, Wales
This study uses the extensive monitoring datasets of the Environment Agency of England and Wales to calculate the flux of dissolved organic carbon (DOC); particulate organic carbon (POC); and excess dissolved CO₂ through English and Welsh rivers. The innovation of this study's approach is to account for the losses of carbon within the fluvial system as well as fluxes at the catchment outlet. In order to make this assessment this study considers: the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) as a measure of the degradation of DOC; and the dissolved CO₂ concentration of groundwater as calculated and apportioned into surface waters on the basis of Ca concentrations. The study shows that the best estimate of carbon export, via rivers, from England and Wales is 10.34 Mg C/km²/year, with 4.19 Mg C/km²/year of this going to the atmosphere. The mapping of the carbon export shows that there are regional hotspots of carbon export and in a small number of cases rivers could be net sinks of carbon due to their low dissolved CO₂ content relative to the atmosphere. The flux calculated by this approach is probably still an underestimate of the carbon flux through fluvial systems but the scale of the export is greater than that previously reported and there is evidence that the fluvial flux of carbon is increasing on a decadal scale.