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Long-term pCO2 dynamics in rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed

Prasad, M. Bala Krishna, Kaushal, Sujay S., Murtugudde, Raghu
Applied geochemistry 2013 v.31 pp. 209-215
alkalinity, carbon dioxide, climate change, coastal water, land use, landscapes, metabolism, monitoring, nutrients, organic matter, pH, pollution load, rivers, streams, subsidies, urbanization, watersheds, waterways, Chesapeake Bay, District of Columbia, Potomac River
Streams and rivers are major exporters of C and other dissolved materials from watersheds to coastal waters. In streams and rivers, substantial amounts of terrigenous organic C is metabolized and degassed as CO2 to the atmosphere. A long-term evaluation of CO2 dynamics in streams is essential for understanding factors controlling CO2 dynamics in streams in response to changes in climate and land-use. Long-term changes in the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) were computed in the Anacostia River and the lower Potomac River in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Long-term estimates were made using routine monitoring data of pH, total alkalinity, and dissolved nutrients from 1985 to 2006 at 14 stations. Longitudinal variability in pCO2 dynamics was also investigated along these rivers downstream of the urban Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Both rivers were supersaturated with CO2 with respect to atmospheric CO2 levels (392μatm) and the highly urbanized Anacostia waters (202–9694μatm) were more supersaturated than the Potomac waters (557–3800μatm). Long-term variability in pCO2 values may be due to changes in river metabolism and organic matter and nutrient loadings. Both rivers exchange significant amounts of CO2 with the atmosphere (i.e., Anacostia at 0.2–72mmolm−2d−1 and Potomac at 0.12–24mmolm−2d−1), implying that waterways receiving organic matter and nutrient subsidies from urbanized landscapes have the potential to increase river metabolism and atmospheric CO2 fluxes along the freshwater–estuarine continuum.