Seasonal and inter-annual variations in carbon fluxes in a tropical river system (Tana River, Kenya)

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Geeraert, N ; Omengo, FO ; Tamooh, F ; Marwick, TR ; Borges, Alberto ; Govers, G ; Bouillon, S (2018)

The hydrological status of river systems is expected to change due to dam operations and climate change. This will affect the riverine fluxes of sediment and carbon (C). In rivers with strong seasonal and inter-annual variability, quantification and extrapolation of sediment and C fluxes can be a challenge as measurement periods are often too short to cover all hydrological conditions. We studied the dynamics of the Tana River (Kenya) from 2012 to 2014 through daily monitoring of sediment concentrations at three sites (Garissa, Tana River Primate Reserve and Garsen) and daily monitoring of C concentrations in Garissa and Garsen during three distinct seasons. A bootstrap method was applied to calculate the range of sediment and C fluxes as a function of annual discharge by using daily discharge data (1942–2014). Overall, we estimated that on average, sediment and carbon were retained in this 600 km long river section between Garissa to Garsen over the 73 years (i.e., fluxes were higher at the upstream site than downstream): integration over all simulations resulted in an average net retention of sediment (~ 2.9 Mt year− 1), POC (~ 18,000 tC year− 1), DOC (~ 920 tC year− 1) and DIC (~ 1200 tC year− 1). To assess the impact of hydrological variations, we constructed four different hydrological scenarios over the same period. Although there was significant non-linearity and difference between the C species, our estimates generally predicted a net increase of C retention between the upstream and downstream site when the annual discharge would decrease, for example caused by an increase of irrigation with reservoir water. When simulating an increase in the annual discharge, e.g. as a potential effect of climate change, we predicted a decrease in C retention. Peer reviewed
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