Geological carbon in the Mackenzie River Basin: Sources and sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide

Regions: Gwich'in Settlement Area, Dehcho Region, South Slave Region

Tags: physical sciences, water chemistry, carbon dioxide, organic carbon, weathering

Principal Investigator: Hilton, Robert G (6)
Licence Number: 14802
Organization: Durham University
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2013 2011 2010 2009
Issued: Sep 12, 2010
Project Team: Dr. Valier Galy (Co-Investigator, Woods Hole Oceanography Institution, USA), Mathieu Dellinger (Research co-Investigator, Institut de Physique du Globe, Paris, France), Dr. Damien Calmels (Co-Investigator, Institut de Physique du Globe, Paris, France)

Objective(s): To assess the carbon balance of the Mackenzie River Basin and to place constraints on the role of climatic and physical erosion processes in driving carbon dioxide source and sinks to the atmosphere and oceans.

Project Description: The overall aim of this project is to assess the carbon balance of the Mackenzie River Basin and to place constraints on the role of climatic and physical erosion processes in driving carbon dioxide source and sinks to the atmosphere and oceans. More specifically, the researchers aim to quantify the amount of chemical weathering that takes place in the Mackenzie River Basin, to quantify how much weathering of silicate rocks is done by carbonic acid versus sulfuric acid, and to quantify the chemical weathering of fossil organic carbon.

At each sampling location, an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) will allow the researchers to determine bathymetry (river bottom), water velocity transect and water discharge. This device is to be mounted onto one side of a boat and immerged just below the river surface. All the data is instantaneously recorded and treated with a laptop connected to the ADCP. Establishing the ADCP transect (water velocity over the river cross-section) needs the boat to cross the river from a bank to another. To check the reproducibility of the transect, four to six transects will be made. Altogether, and including the ADCP setup, this procedure will take approximately two hours at each sampling location.

Then, at each sampling location, the researchers aim to sample river water at various depths. This will be done thanks to a specific equipment built at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris: a point-sediment sampler. It consists in a one meter-long plastic tube, that can contain approximately eight liters of water, and that has one cap at each of its tips. The sampler has to be attached via a steel cable to a winch mounted onto a boat. The sampling is repeated for each sampling depth, constituting a sampling vertical. For some sampling locations, several vertical profiles will be made so as to assess the lateral variability of river material. To sample a river cross-section, several hours can be necessary. Finally, if possible, river bed material will be dredged using a simple home-made device. Coarse bank material will also be sampled if possible.

Filtration will be achieved within a few hours after sampling. Filtering six to eight liters of water can be done in two or three hours. After filtration completion, filter sheets are brushed and rinsed so as to recover the solid material, which is poured with filtrated water into small glass bottles, to be brought back to the laboratory. Slightly less than a liter of filtrated water is also kept aside for chemical analysis.

The researchers plan to use boats to sample river water and sediment, and for this they intend to hire local equipment. They also hope to initiate collaboration with members of the Aurora Research Institute and local academic institutions. They will be available to discuss their research to date and rational for this trip to local communities during their visit.

They will also present findings of the study at international scientific conferences. They intend to publish the scientific results in international peer-reviewed scientific journals. When possible, they will conduct interviews with the press to publicise their research in the Northwest Territories.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from September 09 to September 30, 2010.