Seasonal variations of organic-carbon and nutrient transport through a tropical estuary (Tsengwen) in southwestern Taiwan

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This paper reports the fluvial fluxes and estuarine transport of organic carbon and nutrients from a tropical river (Tsengwen River), southwestern Taiwan. Riverine fluxes of organic carbon and nutrients were highly variable temporally, due primarily to temporal variations in river discharge and suspended load. The sediment yield of the drainage basin during the study period (1995–1996, 616 tonne km–2 year–1) was ca. 15 times lower than that of the long-term (1960–1998) average (9379 tonne km2 year–1), resulting mainly from the damming effect and historically low record of river water discharge (5.02 m3 s–1) in 1995. The flushing time of river water in the estuary varied from 5 months in the dry season to >4.5 days in the wet season and about 1 day in the flood period. Consequently, distributions of nutrients, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and particulate organic carbon (POC) were of highly seasonal variability in the estuary. Nutrients and POC behaved nonconservatively but DOC behaved conservatively in the estuary. DOC fluxes were generally greater than POC fluxes with the exception that POC fluxes considerably exceeded DOC fluxes during the flood period. Degradation of DOC and POC within the span of flushing time was insignificant and may contribute little amount of CO2 to the estuary during the wet season and flood period. Net estuarine fluxes of nutrients were determined by riverine fluxes and estuarine removals (or additions) of nutrients. The magnitude of estuarine removal or addition for a nutrient was also seasonally variable, and these processes must be considered for net flux estimates from the river to the sea. As a result, nonconservative fluxes of dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) from the estuary are –0.002, –0.09 and –0.59 mmol m–2 day–1, respectively, for dry season, wet season and flood period, indicating internal sinks of DIP during all seasons. Due to high turbidity and short flushing time of estuarine water, DIP in the flood period may be derived largely from geochemical processes rather than biological removal, and this DIP should not be included in an annual estimate of carbon budget. The internal sink of phosphorus corresponds to a net organic carbon production (photosynthesis–respiration, p–r) during dry (0.21 mmol m–2 day–1) and wet (9.5 mmol m–2 day–1) seasons. The magnitude of net production (p–r) is 1.5 mol m–2 year–1, indicating that the estuary is autotrophic in 1995. However, there is a net nitrogen loss (nitrogen fixation–denitrification < 0) in 1995, but the magnitude is small (–0.17 mol m–2 year–1).

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