Dissolved inorganic carbon in soil and shallow groundwater, Konza Prairie LTER Site, NE Kanas, USA
University of Kansas
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Sources and seasonal trends of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in a shallow limestone aquifer were studied for 1 year at the Konza Prairie LTER (Long-Term Ecological Research) Site in northeastern Kansas, from spring 2010 to spring 2011. Annual cycles of soil air CO2, groundwater DIC, and isotope characteristics showed a strong dependency on weather conditions and soil respiration. Soil air CO2 reached its annual maximum in the middle of the growing season, when moisture was not limiting to soil respiration. Following the maximum, the CO2 decreased because of moisture deficiency in the late summer and temperature decline in the fall and winter. The decrease began first in the shallowest part of the soil and last in the deepest part. Groundwater CO2 reached its annual maximum in October; this lag-time between the soil and groundwater CO2 maxima of 2-3 months may correspond to the travel time of soil-generated CO2 to the water table. The time-variable CO2 caused an annual carbonate-mineral saturation cycle, intensifying limestone dissolution, thus soil CO2 and carbonate minerals are the two main sources of DIC in soil and groundwater. The stable carbon isotope composition of soil air CO2 and DIC exhibited primarily C4 plant signature and were similar to that of soil organic matter, suggesting that both root and bacterial respiration are sources of CO2. DIC was enriched in 7-10 per mil PDB relative to the CO2 source due to isotope fractionation in a system open to soil CO2; the enrichment was smallest under highest pCO2. For this reason, d13CDIC was out of phase with DIC, the lightest in the late growing season. The carbon flux from the unsaturated zone to the unconfined aquifer during the year was variable depending on respiration and precipitation regimes, and had two main pathways. Transport of soil CO2 in the dissolved form with diffuse flow of recharge water was the most effective during the entire growing season. Downward movement of gaseous CO2 and equilibration with groundwater at the water table was possible in July to August. Storm rainfall events rapidly recharged the aquifer through preferential flow and stream-groundwater interaction. Rather than forcing soil gases downward because of water-saturated pores, the main effect of these events was dilution of groundwater. The calculated flux was about 0.3 M/m2/yr of C, which is less than 1% of the CO2 that is released by soil to the atmosphere via efflux. However, the climate prediction of increased respiration rates, temperature, and frequency of extreme rainfall events has the potential to cause higher carbon flux to the saturated zone, intensifying weathering and groundwater acidification.
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