Project Report

During the summer of 2011, I visited Taiwan to investigate sediment and organic carbon delivered from rivers to the ocean during floods caused by typhoons or tropical storms. Taiwan delivers 384 million metric tons of sediment to the ocean annually, which is approximately 2% of the total global sediment flux to the ocean delivered from only 0.024% of the land surface (Dadson et al., 2003). This high quantity of sediment in Taiwanese rivers is attributed to heavy rainfall, steep slopes, frequent earthquakes, and human impacts increasing erosion and has made Taiwan the focus of much recent study. Currently the fate of Taiwanese river sediment and organic carbon in the ocean is not understood. The fate of this material is of interest because organic carbon burial in marine sediments represents a long-term sink of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and therefore allows for the accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere (Berner, 1982). Researchers use stable carbon isotopic composition of organic carbon to characterize the carbon transported by rivers and to trace the fate of terrestrial and marine organic carbon in ocean sediments. However, the stable carbon isotopic composition of organic carbon in Taiwan bedrock is similar to that of marine organic carbon, making it difficult to distinguish between terrestrial and marine organic carbon in ocean sediments. Specific chemical compounds can be used to trace river materials in ocean sediments. Lignin phenols are a class of chemical compounds only found in vascular plants that have been used to trace river materials in other ocean environments, but have not yet been used in Taiwan. As a result of this collaboration, these chemical tracers will be used to help characterize organic material in Taiwanese rivers and aid in tracing the deposition of terrestrial materials in the ocean.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Carter Kimsey
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Hastings Roxanne H
United States
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