Pan-Arctic patterns in black carbon sources and fluvial discharges deduced from radiocarbon and PAH source apportionment markers in estuarine surface sediments

Marie Elmquist, Igor Semiletov, Laodong Guo, Örjan Gustafsson

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A pan-arctic geospatial picture of black carbon (BC) characteristics was obtained from the seven largest arctic rivers by combining with molecular combustion markers (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and radiocarbon (14C) analysis. The results suggested that the contribution from modern biomass burning to BC ranged from low in the Yukon (8%) and Lena (5%) Rivers to high in the Yenisey River (88%). The Mackenzie River contributed almost half of the total arctic fluvial BC export of 202 kton a-1 (kton = 109 g), with the five Russian-Arctic rivers contributing 10-36 kton a-1 each. The 14C-based source estimate of fluvially exported BC to the Arctic Ocean, weighted by the riverine BC fluxes, amount to about 20% from vegetation/biofuel burning and 80% from 14C-extinct sources such as fossil fuel combustion and relict BC in uplifted source rocks. Combining these pan-arctic data with available estimates of BC export from other rivers gave a revised estimate of global riverine BC export flux of 26 × 103 kton a-1. This is twice higher than a single previous estimate and confirms that river export of BC is a more important pathway of BC to the oceans than direct atmospheric deposition.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberGB2018
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science

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