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Size, age, renewal, and discharge of groundwater carbon

January 15, 2018

Groundwater carbon (C) supply to lakes and streams is important to understanding the role of inland waters in global and regional cycles and in the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. We provide new estimates of the size and discharge of the groundwater C pool using data from a broad survey of groundwater C, information on the depth distribution of groundwater, and data on groundwater age. About 0.25 × 106 km3 of the 8 × 106km3 of groundwater resource is within 100 m of the surface and 4.2 × 106 km3 is above 2000 m. Ages show an average groundwater turnover time of 10 yr at 25 m, 350 yr at 100 m, increasing to about 100 000 yr at 600 m. Global groundwater discharge is 16 000 km3 yr−1; >16% of precipitation passes through groundwater. Groundwater dissolved organic C (DOC) can be high in shallow groundwater but stabilizes at ~2–4 mg L−1 at 100 m. Average groundwater dissolved inorganic C (DIC) is ~30–43 mg L−1. Groundwater C content to 2000 m is ~145 Pg, about the same as all marine sediments and about one-sixth that of the surface ocean. Groundwater C discharge to continental waters is 0.68 Pg yr−1, or 3.4 times that estimated from river base-flow and submarine groundwater discharge. This discharge is 68 times previous estimates, implying a total C flux from land of 3.6 Pg yr−1; 80% of discharge occurs from above 40 m and 99% from the upper 100 m.

Publication Year 2018
Title Size, age, renewal, and discharge of groundwater carbon
DOI 10.1080/20442041.2017.1412918
Authors John A. Downing, Robert G. Striegl
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Inland Waters
Index ID 70198431
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Earth System Processes Division