Carbon Dioxide Supersaturation in the Surface Waters of Lakes

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Science  09 Sep 1994:
Vol. 265, Issue 5178, pp. 1568-1570
DOI: 10.1126/science.265.5178.1568


Data on the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the surface waters from a large number of lakes (1835) with a worldwide distribution show that only a small proportion of the 4665 samples analyzed (less than 10 percent) were within ±20 percent of equilibrium with the atmosphere and that most samples (87 percent) were supersaturated. The mean partial pressure of CO2 averaged 1036 microatmospheres, about three times the value in the overlying atmosphere, indicating that lakes are sources rather than sinks of atmospheric CO2. On a global scale, the potential efflux of CO2 from lakes (about 0.14 x 1015 grams of carbon per year) is about half as large as riverine transport of organic plus inorganic carbon to the ocean. Lakes are a small but potentially important conduit for carbon from terrestrial sources to the atmospheric sink.