Nature Communications October 2019

Unexpected large evasion fluxes of carbon dioxide from turbulent streams draining the world’s mountains

Horgby Å., Luigi Segatto P., Bertuzzo E., Lauerwald R., Lehner B., Ulseth A.J., Vennemann T.W. and Battin T.J.

Nature Communications 10, article 4888 (2019),


Inland waters, including streams and rivers, are active components of the global carbon cycle. Despite the large areal extent of the world’s mountains, the role of mountain streams for global carbon fluxes remains elusive. Using recent insights from gas exchange in turbulent streams, we found that areal CO2 evasion fluxes from mountain streams equal or exceed those reported from tropical and boreal streams, typically regarded as hotspots of aquatic carbon fluxes. At the regional scale of the Swiss Alps, we present evidence that emitted CO2 derives from lithogenic and biogenic sources within the catchment and delivered by the groundwater to the streams. At a global scale, we estimate the CO2 evasion from mountain streams to 167 ± 1.5 Tg C yr−1, which is high given their relatively low areal contribution to the global stream and river networks. Our findings shed new light on mountain streams for global carbon fluxes.