The nonconservative distribution pattern of organic matter in the Rajang, a tropical river with peatland in its estuary

Zhu, Zhuo-Yi; Oakes, Joanne; Eyre, Bradley; Hao, Youyou; Sia, Edwin Sien Aun; Jiang, Shan; Müller, Moritz; Zhang, Jing

Southeast Asian peatland-draining rivers have attracted much attention due to their high dissolved organic carbon (DOC) yield and high inline-formulaCO2 emissions under anthropogenic influences. In August 2016, we carried out a field investigation of the Rajang River and its estuary, a tropical system located in Sarawak, Malaysia. The Rajang has peatland in its estuary, while the river basin is covered by tropical rainforest. DOC-inline-formulaδ13C in the Rajang ranged from inline-formula−28.7 ‰ to inline-formula−20.1 ‰, with a U-shaped trend from river to estuary. For particulate organic carbon (POC), inline-formulaδ13C ranged between inline-formula−29.4 ‰ and inline-formula−31.1 ‰ in the river, and there was a clear increasing trend towards more enriched inline-formulaδ13C values with higher salinity. In the estuary, there was a linear conservative dilution pattern for dissolved organic matter composition (as quantified by D- and L-amino acid enantiomers) plotted against DOC-inline-formulaδ13C, whereas when plotted against salinity, dissolved D- and L-amino acid enantiomer values were higher than the theoretical dilution value. Together, these data indicate that the addition of DOC to the estuary (by peatland) not only increased the DOC concentration but also altered its composition, by adding more biodegraded, inline-formula13C-depleted organic matter into the bulk dissolved organic matter. Alteration of organic matter composition (addition of a more degraded subpart) was also apparent for the particulate phase, but patterns were less clear. The Rajang was characterized by DOC to DON (dissolved organic nitrogen) ratios of 50 in the river section, with loss of DON in the estuary increasing the ratio to 140, suggesting an unbalanced export of organic carbon and nitrogen. Where affected by anthropogenic activities, further assessment of organic carbon to nitrogen ratios is needed.

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Zhu, Zhuo-Yi / Oakes, Joanne / Eyre, Bradley / et al: The nonconservative distribution pattern of organic matter in the Rajang, a tropical river with peatland in its estuary. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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