Export of dissolved carbonaceous and nitrogenous substances in rivers of the “Water Tower of Asia”

Bin Qu , Mika Sillanpää , Shichang Kang , Fangping Yan , Zhiguo Li , Hongbo Zhang , Chaoliu Li


Received November 07, 2016,Revised March 31, 2017, Accepted April 05, 2017, Available online April 08, 2017

Volume 30,2018,Pages 53-61

Rivers are critical links in the carbon and nitrogen cycle in aquatic, terrestrial, and atmospheric environments. Here riverine carbon and nitrogen exports in nine large rivers on the Tibetan Plateau — the “Water Tower of Asia” — were investigated in the monsoon season from 2013 to 2015. Compared with the world average, concentrations of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC, 30.7 mg/L) were high in river basins of the plateau due to extensive topographic relief and intensive water erosion. Low concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC, 1.16 mg/L) were likely due to the low temperature and unproductive land vegetation environments. Average concentrations of riverine DIN (0.32 mg/L) and DON (0.35 mg/L) on the Tibetan Plateau were close to the world average. However, despite its predominantly pristine environment, discharge from agricultural activities and urban areas of the plateau has raised riverine N export. In addition, DOC/DON ratio (C/N, ~ 6.5) in rivers of the Tibetan Plateau was much lower than the global average, indicating that dissolved organic carbon in the rivers of this region might be more bioavailable. Therefore, along with global warming and anthropogenic activities, increasing export of bioavailable riverine carbon and nitrogen from rivers of the Tibetan Plateau can be expected in the future, which will possibly influence the regional carbon and nitrogen cycle.

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