This Is The Story of Carbon…

…and where it goes…how it got there..its trials and tribulations.

This week in carbon sequestration theater we explore Little Petey Carbon and (sing out loud) Ollll’ Mannnn Rrrriverrrr.

Rivers are major transporters of material to the oceans and on into the deep. Below are estimates from Schlunz and Schneider’s (2000) of just organic carbon flux (as opposed to total material). The numbers are fluxes in 10^12 g or 1,000,000 tons per year. That’s lot of carbon!


Certain events like typhoons can amplify the amount of sediment that is carried out to sea. New research appearing in Geology suggest that 61 million tons of sediment was carried out to sea by the Choshui River during Typhoon Mindulle, some 500,000 tons consisted of particles of carbon created during chemical weathering. For scale 500,000 tons is the weight of about 20 RMS Titanics. O’ yeah, I forgot to mention this all occurred over just 96 hours.

Another recent study occurring in PNAS, documents another method by which rivers aid in ocean carbon sequestration. In this first scenario carbon is actively transported to the seafloor. In the second, nutrients transported by river out sea enhance phytoplankton production. The recent study documents that the Amazon River plume supports N2 fixation far from the mouth, extending past even the continental shelf.

Goldsmith, S.T., Carey, A.E., Lyons, W.B., Kao, S., Lee, T., Chen, J. (2008). Extreme storm events, landscape denudation, and carbon sequestration: Typhoon Mindulle, Choshui River, Taiwan. Geology, 36(6), 483. DOI: 10.1130/G24624A.1

Subramaniam, A., Yager, P.L., Carpenter, E.J., Mahaffey, C., Bjorkman, K., Cooley, S., Kustka, A.B., Montoya, J.P., Sanudo-Wilhelmy, S.A., Shipe, R., Capone, D.G. (2008). From the Cover: Amazon River enhances diazotrophy and carbon sequestration in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(30), 10460-10465. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0710279105

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

One Reply to “This Is The Story of Carbon…”

  1. what the bleep is up with Indonesia?

    and why doesn’t China put out a great deal more?!

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