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Sources of dissolved and particulate carbon to the Fraser River system vary significantly in space and time. Tributaries in the northern interior of the basin consistently deliver higher concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to the main stem than other tributaries. Based on samples collected near the Fraser River mouth throughout 2013, the radiocarbon age of DOC exported from the Fraser River does not change significantly across seasons despite a spike in DOC concentration during the freshet, suggesting modulation of heterogeneous upstream chemical and isotopic signals during transit through the river basin. Dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentrations are highest in the Rocky Mountain headwater region where carbonate weathering is evident, but also in tributaries with high DOC concentrations, suggesting that DOC respiration may be responsible for a significant portion of DIC in this basin. Using an isotope and major ion mass balance approach to constrain the contributions of carbonate and silicate weathering and DOC respiration, we estimate that up to 33 ± 11% of DIC is derived from DOC respiration in some parts of the Fraser River basin. Overall, these results indicate close coupling between the cycling of DOC and DIC, and that carbon is actively processed and transformed during transport through the river network.


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Article states: All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information file. Additionally, sample metadata are available in the System for Earth Sample Registration (SESAR) database at See table S2 for sample codes.

Original Publication Citation

Voss, B. M., Eglinton, T. I., Peucker-Ehrenbrink, B., Galy, V., Lang, S. Q., McIntyre, C., Spencer, R. G. M., Bulygina, E., Wang, Z. A., & Guay, K. A. (2023). Isotopic evidence for sources of dissolved carbon and the role of organic matter respiration in the Fraser River Basin, Canada. Biogeochemistry, 164(1), 207-228.

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