Increasing shallow groundwater CO2 and limestone weathering, Konza Prairie, USA

TitleIncreasing shallow groundwater CO2 and limestone weathering, Konza Prairie, USA
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsMacpherson, GL, Roberts, JA, Blair, JM, Townsend, MA, Fowle, DA, Beisner, KR
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Pagination5581 -5599
Accession NumberKNZ001230

In a mid-continental North American grassland, solute concentrations in shallow, limestone-hosted groundwater and adjacent surface water cycle annually and have increased steadily over the 15-year study period, 1991–2005, inclusive. Modeled groundwater CO2, verified by measurements of recent samples, increased from 10−2.05 atm to 10−1.94 atm, about a 20% increase, from 1991 to 2005. The measured groundwater alkalinity and alkaline-earth element concentrations also increased over that time period. We propose that carbonate minerals dissolve in response to lowered pH that occurs during an annual carbonate-mineral saturation cycle. The cycle starts with low saturation during late summer and autumn when dissolved CO2 is high. As dissolved CO2 decreases in the spring and early summer, carbonates become oversaturated, but oversaturation does not exceed the threshold for precipitation. We propose that groundwater is a CO2 sink through weathering of limestone: soil-generated CO2 is transformed to alkalinity through dissolution of calcite or dolomite. The annual cycle and long-term increase in shallow groundwater CO2 is similar to, but greater than, atmospheric CO2.