Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1007/s10021-021-00675-z
Licence creative commons licence
Title (Primary) Anthropogenic transformation disconnects a lowland river from contemporary carbon stores in its catchment
Author Tittel, J.; Musolff, A.; Rinke, K.; Büttner, O.
Journal Ecosystems
Year 2022
Department ASAM; SEEFO; HDG
Volume 25
Issue 3
Page From 618
Page To 632
Language englisch
Topic T5 Future Landscapes
Keywords radiocarbon; DOC; POC; TIC; wetland; geomorphology; floodplain; soil; isotope; Elbe
Abstract Rivers transport carbon from continents to oceans. Surprisingly, this carbon has often been found to be centuries old, not originating from contemporary plant biomass. This can be explained by anthropogenic disturbance of soils or discharge of radiocarbon–depleted wastewater. However, land enclosure and channel bypassing transformed many rivers from anabranching networks to single–channel systems with overbank sediment accumulation and lowered floodplain groundwater tables. We hypothesized that human development changed the fluvial carbon towards older sources by changing the morphology of watercourses. We studied radiocarbon in the Elbe, a European, anthropogenically–transformed lowland river at discharges between low flow and record peak flow. We found that the inorganic carbon, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and particulate organic carbon was aged and up to 1850 years old. The ∆14C values remained low and invariant up to median discharges, indicating that the sources of modern carbon (fixed after 1950) were disconnected from the river during half of the time. The total share of modern carbon in DOC export was marginal (0.04%), 72% of exported DOC was older than 400 years. This was in contrast to undisturbed forested subcatchments, 72% of whose exported DOC was modern. Although population density is high, mass balances showed that wastewater did not significantly affect the ∆14C-DOC in the Elbe river. We conclude that wetlands and other sources of contemporary carbon were decoupled from the anthropogenically transformed Elbe stream network with incised stream bed relative to overbank sediments, shifting the sources of fluvial carbon in favor of aged stores.
Persistent UFZ Identifier
Tittel, J., Musolff, A., Rinke, K., Büttner, O. (2022):
Anthropogenic transformation disconnects a lowland river from contemporary carbon stores in its catchment
Ecosystems 25 (3), 618 - 632