Estuaries are a major boundary in the land-ocean interaction zone where organic carbon (OC) and nutrients are being processed, resulting in a high water-to-air carbon dioxide (CO) flux (∼0.25 Pg C y−1). The continental shelves, however, take up CO (∼0.25 Pg C y−1) from the atmosphere, accounting for approximately 17% of open ocean CO uptake (1.5 Pg C y−1). It is demonstrated here that CO release in estuaries is largely supported by microbial decomposition of highly productive intertidal marsh biomass. It appears that riverine OC, however, would bypass the estuarine zone, because of short river-transit times, and contribute to carbon cycling in the ocean margins and interiors. Low-latitude ocean margins release CO because they receive two-thirds of the terrestrial OC. Because of recent CO increase in the atmosphere, CO releases from low latitudes have become weaker and CO uptake by mid- and high-latitude shelves has become stronger, thus leading to more dissolved inorganic carbon export to the ocean.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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