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Tropical-cyclone-driven erosion of the terrestrial biosphere from mountains.

Hilton, R. G. and Galy, A. and Hovius, N. and Chen, M.-C. and Horng, M.-J. and Chen, H. (2008) 'Tropical-cyclone-driven erosion of the terrestrial biosphere from mountains.', Nature geoscience., 1 (11). pp. 759-762.


The transfer of organic carbon from the terrestrial biosphere to the oceans via erosion and riverine transport constitutes an important component of the global carbon cycle. More than one third of this organic carbon flux comes from sediment-laden rivers that drain the mountains in the western Pacific region. This region is prone to tropical cyclones, but their role in sourcing and transferring vegetation and soil is not well constrained. Here we measure particulate organic carbon load and composition in the LiWu River, Taiwan, during cyclone-triggered floods. We correct for fossil particulate organic carbon using radiocarbon, and find that the concentration of particulate organic carbon from vegetation and soils is positively correlated with water discharge. Floods have been shown to carry large amounts of clastic sediment. Non-fossil particulate organic carbon transported at the same time may be buried offshore under high rates of sediment accumulation. We estimate that on decadal timescales, 77–92% of non-fossil particulate organic carbon eroded from the LiWu catchment is transported during large, cyclone-induced floods. We suggest that tropical cyclones, which affect many forested mountains within the Intertropical Convergence Zone, may provide optimum conditions for the delivery and burial of non-fossil particulate organic carbon in the ocean. This carbon transfer is moderated by the frequency, intensity and duration of tropical cyclones.

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Record Created:10 Dec 2009 11:20
Last Modified:07 Apr 2015 17:27

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