Glacier loss impacts riverine organic carbon transport to the ocean

Lateral transport of organic carbon (OC) to the coastal ocean is an important component of the global carbon cycle because rivers transport, mineralize, and bury significant amounts of OC. Glaciers drive water and sediment export from many high‐elevation and high‐latitude ecosystems, yet their role in watershed OC balances is poorly understood, particularly with regard to particulate OC. Here, we evaluate seasonal water, sediment, and comprehensive OC budgets, including both dissolved and particulate forms, for three watersheds in southeast Alaska that vary in glacier coverage. We show that glacier loss will shift the dominant size fraction of riverine OC from particulate toward dissolved and potentially alter the provenance of particulate OC. Glacier coverage also controls whether OC export is source (C stock) or transport (runoff) limited at the watershed scale. These findings provide insight into the future trajectory of riverine OC export in glacierized regions.


Hood, E., Fellman, J. B., & Spencer, R.G. M.. 2020. Glacier loss impacts riverine organic carbon transport to the ocean. Geophysical Research Letters. 47:19: DOI: