Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Rivers are the primary means by which sediments and carbon are transported from the terrestrial biosphere to the oceans but gaps remain in our understanding of carbon associations from source to sink. Bed sediments from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (CA) were fractionated according to density and analyzed for sediment mass distribution, elemental (C and N) composition, mineral surface area, and stable carbon and radiocarbon isotope compositions of organic carbon (OC) and fatty acids to evaluate the nature of organic carbon in river sediments. OC was unevenly distributed among density fractions. Mass and OC were in general concentrated in mesodensity (1.6-2.0 and 2.0-2.5 g cm(-3)) fractions, comprising 84.0 +/- 1.3% of total sediment mass and 80.8 +/- 13.3% of total OC (TOC). Low-density (< 1.6 g cm(-3)) material, although rich in OC (34.0 +/- 2.0% OC) due to woody debris, constituted only 17.3 +/- 12.8% of TOC. High-density (>2.5 g cm(-3) /organic-poor, mineral-rich material made-up 13.7 +/- 1.4% of sediment mass and 2.0 +/- 0.9% of TOC. Stable carbon isotope compositions of sedimentary OC were relatively uniform across bulk and density fractions (delta C-13 27.4 +/- 0.5 parts per thousand). Radiocarbon content varied from Delta C-14 values of 382 (radiocarbon age 3800 yr BP) to C 94 parts per thousand(modern) indicating a mix of young and old OC. Fatty acids were used to further constrain the origins of sedimentary OC. Short-chain n-C-14-n-C-18 fatty acids of algal origin were depleted in 13C (delta C-13 37.5 to 35.2 parts per thousand) but were enriched in C-14 (Delta C-14 > 0) compared to long-chain n-C-24-n-C-28 acids of vascular plant origins with higher delta C-13 (33.0 to 31.0 parts per thousand) but variable Delta C-14 values (180 and 61 %). These data demonstrate the potentially complex source and age distributions found within river sediments and provide insights about sediment and organic matter supply to the Delta.
GULF-OF-MEXICO; MARINE-SEDIMENTS; SURFACE-AREA; SOIL CARBON; MINERAL INTERACTIONS; MATTER PRESERVATION; ATCHAFALAYA RIVER; MISSISSIPPI RIVER; MARGIN SEDIMENTS; EROSION RATES
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Janet Thompson, Francis Parchaso and Byron Richards from the US Geological Survey (Menlo Park CA) assisted with site selection and sample collection. Beth Lerberg (VIMS) provided lab and field assistance and Steve Kuehl and Linda Meneghini assisted in the field. Two anonymous reviewers provided valuable suggestions on the manuscript. This study was supported by the National Science Foundation, Division of Environmental Biology, Ecosystems Program (DEB-0454736 and DEB-0454741) and the Ocean Sciences Division (OCE-0962277). This paper is contribution 3523 of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.
Wakeham, S. G. and Canuel, E. A.: The nature of organic carbon in density-fractionated sediments in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (California), Biogeosciences, 13, 567-582, https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-13-567-2016, 2016.