Fossil clam shells reveal unintended carbon cycling consequences of Colorado River management

Jansen A. Smith, Daniel A. Auerbach, Karl Flessa, Alexander S. Flecker, Gregory P. Dietl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Water management that alters riverine ecosystem processes has strongly influenced deltas and the people who depend on them, but a full accounting of the trade-offs is still emerging. Using palaeoecological data, we document a surprising biogeochemical consequence of water management in the Colorado River basin. Complete allocation and consumptive use of the river’s flow has altered the downstream estuarine ecosystem, including the abundance and composition of the mollusc community, an important component in estuarine carbon cycling. In particular, population declines in the endemic Colorado delta clam, Mulinia coloradoensis, from 50–125 individuals m−2 in the pre-dam era to three individuals m−2 today, have likely resulted in a reduction, on the order of 5900–15 000 t Cyr−1 (4.1–10.6 mol Cm−2 yr−1), in the net carbon emissions associated with molluscs. Although this reduction is large within the estuarine system, it is small in comparison with annual global carbon emissions. Nonetheless, this finding highlights the need for further research into the effects of dams, diversions and reservoirs on the biogeochemistry of deltas and estuaries worldwide, underscoring a present need for integrated water and carbon planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number160170
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume3
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Fingerprint

river management
fossil
shell
carbon emission
mollusc
water management
carbon
dam
estuarine ecosystem
population decline
biogeochemistry
river flow
river basin
estuary
ecosystem
water
need

Keywords

  • Carbon emission
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Estuary
  • Geohistorical records
  • Mollusc
  • Water diversion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Fossil clam shells reveal unintended carbon cycling consequences of Colorado River management. / Smith, Jansen A.; Auerbach, Daniel A.; Flessa, Karl; Flecker, Alexander S.; Dietl, Gregory P.

In: Royal Society Open Science, Vol. 3, No. 9, 160170, 01.09.2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Smith, Jansen A. ; Auerbach, Daniel A. ; Flessa, Karl ; Flecker, Alexander S. ; Dietl, Gregory P. / Fossil clam shells reveal unintended carbon cycling consequences of Colorado River management. In: Royal Society Open Science. 2016 ; Vol. 3, No. 9.
@article{f623652914f349eba2b5048a01e3c7e0,
title = "Fossil clam shells reveal unintended carbon cycling consequences of Colorado River management",
abstract = "Water management that alters riverine ecosystem processes has strongly influenced deltas and the people who depend on them, but a full accounting of the trade-offs is still emerging. Using palaeoecological data, we document a surprising biogeochemical consequence of water management in the Colorado River basin. Complete allocation and consumptive use of the river’s flow has altered the downstream estuarine ecosystem, including the abundance and composition of the mollusc community, an important component in estuarine carbon cycling. In particular, population declines in the endemic Colorado delta clam, Mulinia coloradoensis, from 50–125 individuals m−2 in the pre-dam era to three individuals m−2 today, have likely resulted in a reduction, on the order of 5900–15 000 t Cyr−1 (4.1–10.6 mol Cm−2 yr−1), in the net carbon emissions associated with molluscs. Although this reduction is large within the estuarine system, it is small in comparison with annual global carbon emissions. Nonetheless, this finding highlights the need for further research into the effects of dams, diversions and reservoirs on the biogeochemistry of deltas and estuaries worldwide, underscoring a present need for integrated water and carbon planning.",
keywords = "Carbon emission, Carbon sequestration, Estuary, Geohistorical records, Mollusc, Water diversion",
author = "Smith, {Jansen A.} and Auerbach, {Daniel A.} and Karl Flessa and Flecker, {Alexander S.} and Dietl, {Gregory P.}",
year = "2016",
month = "9",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1098/rsos.160170",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "3",
journal = "Royal Society Open Science",
issn = "2054-5703",
publisher = "The Royal Society",
number = "9",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Fossil clam shells reveal unintended carbon cycling consequences of Colorado River management

AU - Smith, Jansen A.

AU - Auerbach, Daniel A.

AU - Flessa, Karl

AU - Flecker, Alexander S.

AU - Dietl, Gregory P.

PY - 2016/9/1

Y1 - 2016/9/1

N2 - Water management that alters riverine ecosystem processes has strongly influenced deltas and the people who depend on them, but a full accounting of the trade-offs is still emerging. Using palaeoecological data, we document a surprising biogeochemical consequence of water management in the Colorado River basin. Complete allocation and consumptive use of the river’s flow has altered the downstream estuarine ecosystem, including the abundance and composition of the mollusc community, an important component in estuarine carbon cycling. In particular, population declines in the endemic Colorado delta clam, Mulinia coloradoensis, from 50–125 individuals m−2 in the pre-dam era to three individuals m−2 today, have likely resulted in a reduction, on the order of 5900–15 000 t Cyr−1 (4.1–10.6 mol Cm−2 yr−1), in the net carbon emissions associated with molluscs. Although this reduction is large within the estuarine system, it is small in comparison with annual global carbon emissions. Nonetheless, this finding highlights the need for further research into the effects of dams, diversions and reservoirs on the biogeochemistry of deltas and estuaries worldwide, underscoring a present need for integrated water and carbon planning.

AB - Water management that alters riverine ecosystem processes has strongly influenced deltas and the people who depend on them, but a full accounting of the trade-offs is still emerging. Using palaeoecological data, we document a surprising biogeochemical consequence of water management in the Colorado River basin. Complete allocation and consumptive use of the river’s flow has altered the downstream estuarine ecosystem, including the abundance and composition of the mollusc community, an important component in estuarine carbon cycling. In particular, population declines in the endemic Colorado delta clam, Mulinia coloradoensis, from 50–125 individuals m−2 in the pre-dam era to three individuals m−2 today, have likely resulted in a reduction, on the order of 5900–15 000 t Cyr−1 (4.1–10.6 mol Cm−2 yr−1), in the net carbon emissions associated with molluscs. Although this reduction is large within the estuarine system, it is small in comparison with annual global carbon emissions. Nonetheless, this finding highlights the need for further research into the effects of dams, diversions and reservoirs on the biogeochemistry of deltas and estuaries worldwide, underscoring a present need for integrated water and carbon planning.

KW - Carbon emission

KW - Carbon sequestration

KW - Estuary

KW - Geohistorical records

KW - Mollusc

KW - Water diversion

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84989172184&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84989172184&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1098/rsos.160170

DO - 10.1098/rsos.160170

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84989172184

VL - 3

JO - Royal Society Open Science

JF - Royal Society Open Science

SN - 2054-5703

IS - 9

M1 - 160170

ER -