The isotopic composition of particulate organic carbon in mountain rivers of Taiwan

Hilton, Robert G. and Galy, Albert and Hovius, Niels and Horng, Ming-Jame and Chen, Hongey (2010) The isotopic composition of particulate organic carbon in mountain rivers of Taiwan. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 74 (11). pp. 3164-3181. DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2010.03.004

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Abstract

Small rivers draining mountain islands are important in the transfer of terrestrial particulate organic carbon (POC) to the oceans. This input has implications for the geochemical stratigraphic record. We have investigated the stable isotopic composition of POC ([delta]13Corg) in rivers draining the mountains of Taiwan. In 15 rivers, the suspended load has a mean [delta]13Corg that ranges from -28.1 ±0.8[per mille sign] to -22.0 ±0.2[per mille sign] (on average 37 samples per river) over the interval of our study. To investigate this variability we have supplemented suspended load data with measurements of POC in bedrock and river bed materials, and constraints on the composition of the terrestrial biomass. Fossil POC in bedrock has a range in [delta]13Corg from -25.4 ±1.5[per mille sign] to -19.7 ±2.3[per mille sign] between the major geological formations. Using coupled [delta]13Corg and N/C we have found evidence in the suspended load for mixing of fossil POC with non-fossil POC from the biosphere. In two rivers outside the Taiwan Central Range anthropogenic land use appears to influence [delta]13Corg, resulting in more variable and lower values than elsewhere. In all other catchments, we have found that 5[per mille sign] variability in [delta]13Corg is not controlled by the variable composition of the biomass, but instead by heterogeneous fossil POC. In order to quantify the fraction of suspended load POC derived from non-fossil sources (Fnf) as well as the isotopic composition of fossil POC ([delta]13Cfossil) carried by rivers, we adapt an end-member mixing model. River suspended sediments and bed sediments indicate that mixing of fossil POC results in a negative trend between N/C and [delta]13Corg that is distinct from the addition of non-fossil POC, collapsing multiple fossil POC end-members onto a single mixing trend. As an independent test of the model, Fnf reproduces the fraction modern (Fmod) in our samples, determined from 14C measurements, to within 0.09 at the 95% confidence level. Over the sampling period, the mean Fnf of suspended load POC was low (0.29 ±0.02, n=459), in agreement with observations from other mountain rivers where physical erosion rates are high and fossil POC enters river channels. The mean [delta]13Cfossil in suspended POC varied between -25.2 ±0.5[per mille sign] and -20.2 ±0.6[per mille sign] from catchment to catchment. This variability is primarily controlled by the distribution of the major geological formations. It also covers entirely the range of [delta]13Corg found in marine sediments which is commonly thought to derive from mixing between marine and terrigenous POC. If land-sourced POC is preserved in marine sediments, then changes in the bulk [delta]13Corg observed offshore Taiwan could instead be explained by changes in the onshore provenance of sediment. The range in [delta]13Corg of fossil organic matter in sedimentary rocks exposed at the surface is large and given the importance of these rocks as a source of clastic sediment to the oceans, care should be taken in accounting for fossil POC in marine deposits supplied by active mountain belts.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 09AREP; IA59;
Subjects: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Divisions: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Journal or Publication Title: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Volume: 74
Page Range: pp. 3164-3181
Identification Number: 10.1016/j.gca.2010.03.004
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2010 13:41
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 09:56
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/1348

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