Export of dissolved inorganic nutrients to the northern Indian Ocean from the Indian monsoonal rivers during discharge period

Krishna, M. S. ; Prasad, M. H. K. ; Rao, D. B. ; Viswanadham, R. ; Sarma, V. V. S. S. ; Reddy, N. P. C. (2016) Export of dissolved inorganic nutrients to the northern Indian Ocean from the Indian monsoonal rivers during discharge period Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 172 . pp. 430-443. ISSN 0016-7037

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Related URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2015.10.013


Coastal regions are highly productive due to the nutrients largely supplied by rivers. To examine the contribution of Dissolved Inorganic Nutrients (DIN) by Indian rivers to coastal waters, data were collected near the freshwater heads of 27 monsoonal rivers of peninsular India during three weeks in late July to mid-August, the middle of the principal runoff period of the southwest monsoon of 2011. Twelve researchers in four groups, equipped with car and portable laboratory equipment, sampled mid-stream of each estuary using mechanized boat, and filtered and partly analyzed the water in the evening. The estimated exports were 0.22 ± 0.05, 0.11 ± 0.03 and 1.03 ± 0.26 Tg yr−1 for dissolved inorganic nitrogen, phosphorus and silicate, respectively. Higher amounts of DIN reach the Bay of Bengal than the Arabian Sea due to the higher volume (∼76%) of discharge to the former. In contrast, the export of dissolved inorganic nitrogen is almost same to the Bay of Bengal (0.12 ± 0.03 Tg yr−1) and Arabian Sea (0.10 ± 0.02 Tg yr−1) principally due to the polluted Narmada and Tapti rivers in the northwest. Including input from the glacial rivers, Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus, it is estimated that the northern Indian Ocean receives ∼1.84 ± 0.46, 0.28 ± 0.07 and 3.58 ± 0.89 Tg yr−1 of nitrate, phosphate and silicate, respectively, which are significantly lower than the earlier estimates of DIN export from the Indian rivers based on DIN measured in the mid or upstream rivers. Such low fluxes in this study were attributed to efficient retention/elimination of DIN (∼91%) before reaching the coastal ocean. Hence, this study suggests that the importance of sampling locations for estimating nutrient fluxes to the coastal ocean. Riverine DIN export of 1.84 ± 0.46 Tg yr−1 would support 12.2 ± 3.1 Tg C yr−1 of new production in coastal waters of the northern Indian Ocean that results in a removal of 12.2 ± 3.1 Tg atmospheric CO2 yr−1.

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