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Tracing soil organic carbon in the lower Amazon River and its tributaries using GDGT distributions and bulk organic matter properties

Kim J.H., Zell C., Moreira-Turcq P., Pérez M.A.P., Abril G., Mortillaro J.M., Weijers J.W.H., Meziane T., Sinninghe Damsté J.S.. 2012. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 90 : p. 163-180.

DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2012.05.014

In order to trace the transport of soil organic carbon (OC) in the lower Amazon basin, we investigated the distributions of crenarchaeol and branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs) by analyzing riverbed sediments and river suspended particulate matter (SPM) collected in the Solimões-Amazon River mainstem and its tributaries. The Branched and Isoprenoid Tetraether (BIT) index, a proxy for river-transported soil OC into the ocean, was determined from the distributions of these GDGTs. The GDGT-derived parameters were compared with other bulk geochemical data (i.e. C:N ratio and stable carbon isotopic composition). The GDGT-derived and bulk geochemical data indicate that riverine SPM and riverbed sediments in the lower Amazon River and its tributaries are a mixture of C3 plant-derived soil OC and aquatic-derived OC. The branched GDGTs in the SPM and riverbed sediments did not predominantly originate from the high Andes soils (>2500 m in altitude) as was suggested previously. However, further constraint on the soil source area of branched GDGTs was hampered due to the deficiency of soil data from the lower montane forest areas in the Andes. Our study also revealed seasonal and interannual variation in GDGT composition as well as soil OC discharge, which was closely related to the hydrological cycle. By way of a simple binary mixing model using the flux-weighted BIT values at Óbidos, the last gauging station in the Amazon River, we estimated that 70¿80% of the POC pool in the river was derived of soil OC. However, care should be taken to use the BIT index since it showed a non-conservative behaviour along the river continuum due to the aquatic production of crenarchaeol. Further investigation using a continuous sampling strategy following the full hydrological cycle is required to fully understand how soil-derived GDGT signals are transformed in large tropical river systems through their transport pathway to the ocean. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : matière organique du sol; traçabilité; propriété physicochimique; matière organique; sédiment; transport dans le sol; glycérol; cycle du carbone; cycle hydrologique; carbone; amazone; brésil

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