Assessing landscape and seasonal controls on CO2 fluxes in a karst sinkhole

dc.contributor.authorThompson, Taryn Karieen
dc.contributor.committeechairStewart, Ryan D.en
dc.contributor.committeememberMcLaughlin, Daniel L.en
dc.contributor.committeememberSchreiber, Madeline E.en
dc.contributor.departmentCrop and Soil Environmental Sciencesen
dc.description.abstractKarst landscapes can serve as carbon sinks when carbon dioxide (CO2) reacts with water to form carbonic acid, which then weathers carbonate rocks. However, CO2 can also move through the subsurface via gas diffusion, a process that is not well-understood in karst systems. This study focused on quantifying CO2 diffusion within a karst sinkhole. The objectives of this study were to: 1) identify the depth of the zero-flux plane (i.e., depths of local maximum CO2 concentrations), analyze the distributions of concentration gradients, and investigate the validity of a uniform concentration gradient throughout the profile; and 2) assess the influences of vertical position and seasonality on CO2 fluxes within this sinkhole. The study site contained three locations within the sinkhole, including shoulder, backslope, and toeslope locations. Each location had three soil CO2 and three soil water content/temperature sensors placed at 20, 40, and 60 cm depths. Zero-flux planes were seldom detectable during the warm season (April-September) but were frequently found near the surface (20 or 40 cm) during the cool season (October-March). The common assumption of a uniform concentration gradient was often invalid based on relative concentrations between sensor pairs. As for the second objective, CO2 fluxes generally followed a trend of upward fluxes in warmer months that was partially offset by downward fluxes during the cooler months. These study results provide new insight into CO2 dynamics in a karst system, and suggest that subsurface processes such as chemical weathering and cave ventilation affect the direction and magnitude of CO2 fluxes.en
dc.description.abstractgeneralCarbon dioxide (CO2) within soils is a larger pool of CO2 than atmospheric CO2. Therefore, the movement of CO2 within soils is important to understand, as soil CO2 may eventually diffuse through the soil and into the atmosphere. Soil CO2 movement is dependent on many factors such as soil water content, porosity, and temperature. Soil CO2 movement may vary between landscapes as well, due to chemical weathering processes being sinks of soil and atmospheric CO2. One type of important landscape is karst, which can be identified by easily soluble rocks, usually in the forms of limestone and dolomite rocks. In order to investigate the influences of karst landscapes on the movement of soil CO2, in this study I identified the depths of CO2 maximum concentrations and CO2 movement over time and by sinkhole slope position. The results from this study were that the depth of maximum CO2 concentration was deeper, > 40 cm, during the warmer months and often shallower, ≤ 40 cm, during the cooler months. The CO2 fluxes generally followed a trend of upward fluxes in warmer months that was partially offset by downward fluxes during the cooler months. The results from this study suggest that due to vertical differences in soil properties, temperature, chemical weathering of the karst rock, and cave ventilation the depth of the maximum CO2 concentration and the CO2 movement vary by season and sinkhole slope location. This study provides new insight to CO2 movement relative to karst landscapes while highlighting the importance of soil and geologic properties as influences that can alter the direction and magnitude of CO2 fluxes.en
dc.description.degreeMaster of Scienceen
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 Internationalen
dc.subjectconcentration gradienten
dc.subjectzero-flux planeen
dc.subjectgradient methoden
dc.subjectdiffusion coefficienten
dc.subjectFick's Lawen
dc.titleAssessing landscape and seasonal controls on CO2 fluxes in a karst sinkholeen
dc.typeThesisen and Soil Environmental Sciencesen Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen of Scienceen


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