Impact of peatlands on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the Rajang river and estuary, Malaysia

Tropical peat-draining rivers are known as potentially large sources of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere due to high loads of carbon they receive from surrounding soils. However, not many seasonally resolved data are available, limiting our understanding of these systems. We report the first measurements of carbon dioxide partial pressure (pCO2) in the Rajang River and Estuary, the longest river in Malaysia. The Rajang River catchment is characterized by extensive peat deposits found in the delta region, and by human impact such as logging, land use and river damming. pCO2 averaged 2919±573µatm during the wet season and 2732±443µatm during the dry season. This is at the low end of reported values for Southeast Asian peat-draining rivers, but higher than values reported for Southeast Asian rivers that do not flow through peat deposits. However, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and δ13C-DIC data did not suggest that peatlands were an important source of inorganic carbon to the river, with an average DIC concentration of 203.9±59.6µmolL−1 and an average δ13C-DIC of −8.06±1.90‰. Also, compared to rivers with similar peat coverage, the pCO2 in the Rajang was rather low. Thus, we suggest that peat coverage is, by itself, insufficient as sole predictor of CO2 emissions from peat-draining rivers, and that other factors, like the spatial distribution of peat in the catchment and pH, need to be considered as well. In the Rajang River, peatlands probably do not contribute much to the CO2 flux due to the proximity of the peatlands to the coast. CO2 fluxes to the atmosphere were 2.28±0.52gCm−2d−1 (wet season) and 2.45±0.45gCm−2d−1 (dry season), making the Rajang River a moderate source of carbon to the atmosphere.

Müller-Dum D., Warneke T., Rixen T., Müller M., Baum A., Christodoulou A., Oakes J., Eyre B. D. & Notholt J., 2018. Impact of peatlands on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the Rajang river and estuary, Malaysia. Biogeosciences Discussions. Article.

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