14 Jun 2023
 | 14 Jun 2023

Channel cross-section heterogeneity of particulate organic carbon transport in the Huanghe

Yutian Ke, Damien Calmels, Julien Bouchez, Marc Massault, Benjamin Chetelat, Aurélie Noret, Hongming Cai, Jiubin Chen, Jérôme Gaillardet, and Cécile Quantin

Abstract. The Huanghe (Yellow River), one of the largest turbid river systems in the world, has long been recognized as a major contributor of suspended particulate matter (SPM) to the ocean. However, over the last few decades, the SPM export flux of the Huanghe has decreased over 90 % due to the high management, impacting the global export of particulate organic carbon (POC). To better constrain sources and modes of transport of POC beyond the previously investigated transportation of POC near the channel surface, SPM samples were for the first time collected over a whole channel cross-section in the lower Huanghe. Riverine SPM samples were analyzed for particle size and major element contents, as well as for POC content and dual carbon isotopes (13C and 14C). The results show clear vertical and lateral heterogeneity of SPM physical and chemical characteristics within the river cross-section, with for example finer SPM carrying more POC with higher 14C activity near the surface of the right bank. Notably, we discuss how bank erosion in the alluvial plain is likely to generate lateral heterogeneity in POC composition. The Huanghe POC is millennial-aged (4,020 ± 500 radiocarbon years), dominated by organic carbon (OC) from the biosphere, while the lithospheric fraction reaches up to ca. 33 %. The mobilization of aged and refractory OC, including radiocarbon-dead biospheric OC, from deeper soil horizons of the loess-paleosol sequence through erosion in the Chinese Loess Plateau is an important mechanism contributing to fluvial POC in the Huanghe drainage basin. Altogether, anthropogenic activities can drastically change the compositions and transport dynamics of fluvial POC, consequentially altering the feedback of the source-to-sink trajectory of a river system to regional and global carbon cycles.

Yutian Ke et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1045', Anonymous Referee #1, 11 Jul 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1045', Melissa Schwab, 11 Jul 2023
  • AC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1045', Yutian Ke , 15 Sep 2023

Yutian Ke et al.


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Short summary
Through a river cross-section, it shows fluvial organic carbon in the lower Huanghe has clear vertical and lateral heterogeneity in elemental and isotopic signals. Bank erosion supplies terrestrial organic carbon to the fluvial transport. Physical erosion of aged and refractory organic carbon, including radiocarbon-dead organic carbon source from the biosphere, from relatively deep soil horizons of the Chinese Loess Plateau contributes to fluvial particulate organic carbon in the Huanghe.