Anthropogenic and climatic influences on carbon fluxes from eastern North America to the Atlantic Ocean: A process-based modeling study

Hanqin Tian, Qichun Yang, Raymond G. Najjar, Wei Ren, Marjorie A.M. Friedrichs, Charles S. Hopkinson, Shufen Pan

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The magnitude, spatiotemporal patterns, and controls of carbon flux from land to the ocean remain uncertain. Here we applied a process-based land model with explicit representation of carbon processes in streams and rivers to examine how changes in climate, land conversion, management practices, atmospheric CO2, and nitrogen deposition affected carbon fluxes from eastern North America to the Atlantic Ocean, specifically the Gulf of Maine (GOM), Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB), and South Atlantic Bight (SAB). Our simulation results indicate that the mean annual fluxes (±1 standard deviation) of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), particulate organic carbon (POC), and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in the past three decades (1980-2008) were 2.37±0.60, 1.06±0.20, and 3.57±0.72TgCyr-1, respectively. Carbon export demonstrated substantial spatial and temporal variability. For the region as a whole, the model simulates a significant decrease in riverine DIC fluxes from 1901 to 2008, whereas there were no significant trends in DOC or POC fluxes. In the SAB, however, there were significant declines in the fluxes of all three forms of carbon, and in the MAB subregion, DIC and POC fluxes declined significantly. The only significant trend in the GOM subregion was an increase in DIC flux. Climate variability was the primary cause of interannual variability in carbon export. Land conversion from cropland to forest was the primary factor contributing to decreases in all forms of C export, while nitrogen deposition and fertilizer use, as well as atmospheric CO2 increases, tended to increase DOC, POC, and DIC fluxes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)752-772
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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