2021 journal article
Elevated organic carbon pulses persist in estuarine environment after major storm events
LIMNOLOGY AND OCEANOGRAPHY LETTERS, 6(1), 43–50.
Abstract Estuaries regulate transport of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from land to ocean. Export of terrestrial DOC from coastal watersheds is exacerbated by increasing major rainfall and storm events and human activities, leading to pulses of DOC that are shunted through rivers downstream to estuaries. Despite an upward trend of extreme events, the fate of the pulsed terrestrial DOC in estuaries remains unclear. We analyzed the effects of seven major tropical cyclones (TC) from 1999 to 2017 on the quantity and fate of DOC in the Neuse River Estuary (NC, USA). Significant TC‐induced increases in DOC were observed throughout the estuary; the increase lasting from around 50 d at head‐of‐tide to over 6 months in lower estuary. Our results suggest that pulsed terrestrial DOC associated with TCs temporarily overwhelms the estuarine filter's abiotic and biotic degradation capacity under such high flow events, enhancing the shunt of terrestrial carbon to the coastal ocean.