Partitioning inorganic carbon fluxes from paired O2 – CO2 gas measurements in a neotropical headwater stream, Costa Rica

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Marzolf, N.S, G.E. Small, D. Oviedo-Vargas, C.N. Ganong, J.H. Duff, A. Ramírez, C.M. Pringle, D.P. Genereux, and M. Ardón. 2021. Biogeochemistry, early online access.

DOI (Open access)


The role of rivers and streams in the global carbon (C) cycle remains unconstrained, especially in headwater streams where CO2 evasion (FCO2) to the atmosphere is high. Stream C cycling is understudied in the tropics compared to temperate streams, and tropical streams may have among the highest FCO2 due to higher temperatures, continuous organic matter inputs, and high respiration rates both in-stream and in surrounding soils. In this paper, we present paired in-stream O2 and CO2 sensor data from a headwater stream in a lowland rainforest in Costa Rica to explore temporal variability in ecosystem processes. Further, we estimate groundwater CO2 inputs (GWCO2) from riparian well CO2 measurements and assess all fluxes to examine the relative contributions of sinks and sources of dissolved inorganic C (DIC) to a headwater stream. Paired O2 – CO2 data reveal stream CO2 supersaturation driven by groundwater CO2 inputs and large in-stream production of CO2. Areal fluxes in our study reach show FCO2 is supported by both GWCO2 inputs and in-stream metabolism and the seasonality in GWCO2 reflects the hydrology of the site. Using a mass balance approach, we show FCO2 is the dominant loss of DIC from the stream, greater than dissolved exports, and is sustained by both internal production of DIC and terrestrial inputs of DIC. Our results underscore the importance of tropical headwater streams as large contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere among inland waters and show of this C derives from both in-stream and terrestrial sources.