Anthropogenic alteration of nutrient supply increases the global freshwater carbon sink

N. J. Anderson, A. J. Heathcote, D. R. Engstrom, D. B. Ryves, K. Mills, Y. T. Prairie, P. A. del Giorgio, H. Bennion, S. Turner, N. L. Rose, V. J. Jones, N. Solovieva, A. Cook Shinneman, C. E. Umbanhowar, S. C. Fritz, D. Verschuren, J. E. Saros, J. M. Russell, R. Bindler, B. Valero-GarcésM. B. Edlund, R. D. Dietz, A. E. Myrbo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Lakes have a disproportionate effect on the global carbon (C) cycle relative to their area, mediating C transfer from land to atmosphere, and burying organic-C in their sediments. The magnitude and temporal variability of C burial is, however, poorly constrained, and the degree to which humans have influenced lake C cycling through landscape alteration has not been systematically assessed. Here, we report global and biome specific trajectories of lake C sequestration based on 516 lakes and show that some lake C burial rates (i.e., those in tropical forest and grassland biomes) have quadrupled over the last 100 years. Global lake C-sequestration (~0.12 Pg year−1) has increased by ~72 Tg year−1 since 1900, offsetting 20% of annual CO2 freshwater emissions rising to ~30% if reservoirs are included and contributing to the residual continental C sink. Nutrient availability explains ~70% of the observed increase, while rising temperatures have a minimal effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaaw2145
JournalScience Advances
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding sources for the individual projects that contributed data to this compilation can be found in the source publications/reports listed in table S1.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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