Organic carbon present in aquatic ecosystems has the potential to either be sequestered by sedimentary organic matter or recycled and contributed to the atmosphere through microbial respiration. Ultimately, the fate of organic matter is dependant upon its source, as well as the physical transport mechanisms and biogeochemical transformations it is exposed to in the water column. Because these processes vary significantly within aquatic systems, such as the ocean, it is difficult to assess the biogeochemical importance of organic carbon; however, it is a problem of critical importance whose results could be utilized to resolve key issues in global biogeochemical carbon cycles and to determine the net heterotrophy of most aquatic environments. <br/><br/>Scientists from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Virginia Commonwealth University would address this problem by studying organic carbon dynamics in Lake Superior because its biogeochemistry is similar to that of the world ocean. Using Lake Superior as a natural laboratory, the researchers plan to carry out radiocarbon measurements of particulate organic carbon (POC), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), and bacterially-respired CO2, as well as obtain the chemical composition of DOC and POC during stratified and non-stratified periods. Results would be used to identify the sources of carbon in the lake and determined transformations of carbon between POC, DOC, DIC, and bacterially-respired CO2. <br/> <br/>Educational impacts include workshops and presentation for K-12 audiences as well as research and training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students in Water Resources Science and Biochemistry classes.
COLLABORATIVE PROPOSAL: HOW IMPORTANT IS "OLD" CARBON IN LAKE SUPERIOR? A RADIOCARBON INVESTIGATION