When Water Vanishes: Magnitude and Regulation of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Dry Temporary Streams

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Most fluvial networks worldwide include watercourses that recurrently cease to flow and run dry. The spatial and temporal extent of the dry phase of these temporary watercourses is increasing as a result of global change. Yet, current estimates of carbon emissions from fluvial networks do not consider temporary watercourses when they are dry. We characterized the magnitude and variability of carbon emissions from dry watercourses by measuring the carbon dioxide (CO2) flux from 10 dry streambeds of a fluvial network during the dry period and comparing it to the CO2 flux from the same streambeds during the flowing period and to the CO2 flux from their adjacent upland soils. We also looked for potential drivers regulating the CO2 emissions by examining the main physical and chemical properties of dry streambed sediments and adjacent upland soils. The CO2 efflux from dry streambeds (mean ± SD = 781.4 ± 390.2 mmol m−2 day−1) doubled the CO2 efflux from flowing streambeds (305.6 ± 206.1 mmol m−2 day−1) and was comparable to the CO2 efflux from upland soils (896.1 ± 263.2 mmol m−2 day−1). However, dry streambed sediments and upland soils were physicochemically distinct and differed in the variables regulating their CO2 efflux. Overall, our results indicate that dry streambeds constitute a unique and biogeochemically active habitat that can emit significant amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. Thus, omitting CO2 emissions from temporary streams when they are dry may overlook the role of a key component of the carbon balance of fluvial networks ​
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