MEPS 259:129-138 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps259129

Carbonate dissolution in the turbid and eutrophic Loire estuary

Gwenaël Abril1,*, Henri Etcheber1, Bruno Delille2, Michel Frankignoulle2 Alberto V. Borges2

1Département de Géologie et Océanographie, Université Bordeaux 1, CNRS-UMR EPOC 5805, avenue des Facultés, 33405 Talence, France
2Unité d¹Océanographie Chimique, Institut de Physique (B5), Université de Liège, 4000 Sart Tilman, Belgium

ABSTRACT: We measured particulate and dissolved organic carbon (POC and DOC), chlorophyll, oxygen, partial pressure of CO2, pH, total alkalinity (TAlk) and particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) during a late summer cruise in the eutrophic Loire estuary. These parameters reveal an intense mineralisation of organic matter in the estuarine maximum turbidity zone (MTZ) that results in oxygen deficits (down to 20% of the saturation level) and high CO2 oversaturations (pCO2 up to 2900 µatm). Several facts revealed the occurrence of carbonate dissolution in the Loire MTZ: large amounts of alkalinity were produced in the upper estuary, increasing its transfer to the ocean by 30%; the calculated saturation index showed a net undersaturation for aragonite and a slight undersaturation for calcite in the MTZ; and PIC decreased from 2.1% (% dry weight) in riverine suspension to 0.4% in the MTZ. A stoichiometric approach is used to assess the coupling between aerobic respiration and carbonate dissolution, where apparent oxygen utilisation, excess CO2, TAlk and dissolved inorganic carbon are compared quantitatively. About 20% of the CO2 generated by respiration was involved in carbonate dissolution. The loss of PIC at the river-estuary transition quantitatively corresponds to the amount of authigenic calcite precipitated upstream in the highly eutrophic river. This suggests that CO2 exchange with the atmosphere along the eutrophic river-estuary continuum is buffered by carbonate precipitation in the autotrophic river and its dissolution in the heterotrophic estuary.

KEY WORDS: Eutrophication · Estuarine turbidity maxima · Heterotrophy · Aerobic respiration · Carbonate dissolution

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