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Inland waters

November 1, 2018

1. The total flux of carbon—which includes gaseous emissions, lateral flux, and burial—from inland waters across the conterminous United States (CONUS) and Alaska is 193 teragrams of carbon (Tg C) per year. The dominant pathway for carbon movement out of inland waters is the emission of carbon dioxide gas across water surfaces of streams, rivers, and lakes (110.1 Tg C per year), a flux not identified in the First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR1; CCSP 2007). Second to gaseous emissions are the lateral fluxes of carbon through rivers to coastal environments (59.8 Tg C per year). Total carbon burial in lakes and reservoirs represents the smallest flux for CONUS and Alaska (22.5 Tg C per year) (medium confidence).

2. Based on estimates presented herein, the carbon flux from inland waters is now understood to be four times larger than estimates presented in SOCCR1. The total flux of carbon from inland waters across North America is estimated to be 507 Tg C per year based on a modeling approach that integrates high-resolution U.S. data and continental-scale estimates of water area, discharge, and carbon emissions. This estimate represents a weighted average of 24 grams of carbon per m2 per year of continental area exported and removed through inland waters in North America (low confidence).

3. Future research can address critical knowledge gaps and uncertainties related to inland water carbon fluxes. This chapter, for example, does not include methane emissions, which cannot be calculated as precisely as other carbon fluxes because of significant data gaps. Key to reducing uncertainties in estimated carbon fluxes is increased temporal resolution of carbon concentration and discharge sampling to provide better representations of storms and other extreme events for estimates of total inland water carbon fluxes. Improved spatial resolution of sampling also could potentially highlight anthropogenic influences on the quantity and quality of carbon fluxes in inland waters and provide information for land-use planning and management of water resources. Finally, uncertainties could likely be reduced if the community of scientists working in inland waters establishes and adopts standard measurement techniques and protocols similar to those maintained through collaborative efforts of the International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project and relevant governmental agencies from participating nations.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title Inland waters
DOI 10.7930/SOCCR2.2018.Ch14
Authors David E. Butman, Robert G. Striegl, Sarah M. Stackpoole, Paul Del Giorgio, Yves Prairie, Darren Pilcher, Peter Raymond, Fernando Paz Pellat, Javier Alcocer
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70201230
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Central Branch