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Organic matter sources, fluxes and greenhouse gas exchange in the Oubangui River (Congo River basin)

Author(s): S. Bouillon | A. Yambélé | R. G. M. Spencer | D. P. Gillikin | P. J. Hernes | J. Six | R. Merckx | A. V. Borges

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 63;
Date: 2012;
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The Oubangui is a major tributary of the Congo River, draining an area of ~ 500 000 km2 mainly consisting of wooded savannahs. Here, we report results of a one year long 2-weekly sampling campaign in Bangui (Central African Republic) since March 2010 for a suite of physico-chemical and biogeochemical characteristics, including total suspended matter (TSM), bulk concentration and stable isotope composition of particulate organic carbon (POC and δ13CPOC), particulate nitrogen (PN and δ15NPN), dissolved organic carbon (DOC and δ13CDOC), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC and δ13CDIC), dissolved greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4 and N2O), and dissolved lignin composition. We estimated the total annual flux of TSM, POC, PN, DOC and DIC to be 2.33 Tg yr−1, 0.14 Tg C yr−1, 0.014 Tg N yr−1, 0.70 Tg C yr−1, and 0.49 Tg C yr−1, respectively. Most elements showed clear hysteresis over the hydrograph. δ13C signatures of both POC and DOC showed strong seasonal variations (−30.6 to −25.8 ‰, and −31.8 to −27.1 ‰, respectively) but with contrasting patterns. Our data indicate that the origins of POC and DOC may vary strongly over the hydrograph and are largely uncoupled, differing up to 6 ‰ in δ13C signatures. The low POC/PN ratios, high % POC and low and variable δ13CPOC signatures during low flow conditions suggest that during this period, the majority of the POC pool consists of in situ produced phytoplankton, consistent with concurrent pCO2 (partial pressure of CO2) values only slightly above and occasionally, below, atmospheric equilibrium. Dissolved lignin characteristics (carbon-normalised yields, cinnamyl:vanillyl phenol ratios, and vanillic acid to vanillin ratios) showed marked differences between high and low discharge conditions. We observed a~strong seasonality in pCO2, ranging between 470 ± 203 ppm for Q
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