Olivier Sulpis

and 5 more

Gerrit Müller

and 3 more

We investigate if the commonly neglected riverine detrital carbonate fluxes might balance several chemical mass balances of the global ocean. Particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) concentrations in riverine suspended sediments, i.e., carbon contained by these detrital carbonate minerals, was quantified at the basin and global scale. Our approach is based on globally representative datasets of riverine suspended sediment composition, catchment properties and a two-step regression procedure. The present day global riverine PIC flux is estimated at 3.1 ± 0.3 Tmol C/y (13% of total inorganic carbon export and 4 % of total carbon export), with a flux-weighted mean concentration of 0.26 ± 0.03 wt%. The flux prior to damming was 4.1 ± 0.5 Tmol C/y. PIC fluxes are concentrated in limestone-rich, rather dry and mountainous catchments of large rivers in Arabia, South East Asia and Europe with 2.2 Tmol C/y (67.6 %) discharged between 15 °N and 45 °N. Greenlandic and Antarctic meltwater discharge and ice-rafting additionally contribute 0.8 ± 0.3 Tmol C/y. This amount of detrital carbonate minerals annually discharged into the ocean implies a significant contribution of calcium (~ 4.75 Tmol Ca/y) and alkalinity fluxes (~ 10 Tmol(eq)/y) to marine mass balances and moderate inputs of strontium (~ 5 Gmol Sr/y), based on undisturbed riverine and cryospheric inputs and a dolomite/calcite ratio of 0.1. Magnesium fluxes (~ 0.25 Tmol Mg/y), mostly hosted by less-soluble dolomite, are rather negligible. These unaccounted fluxes help elucidating respective marine mass balances and potentially alter conclusions based on these budgets.