Organic carbon sink dynamics and carbon sink-source balance in global lakes during the Anthropocene

12 March 2024, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The carbon burial and greenhouse gas emissions of lakes are pivotal in the global carbon cycle to offset or accelerate global warming. However, their balance or the magnitude of anthropogenic increase of carbon burial remains uncertain in global lakes. Here, we quantified the carbon sink dynamics and the sink-source balance in global lakes with effect size metrics, that is, the log-response ratio of organic carbon burial between post-1950 and pre-1900 periods and the carbon balance ratio between carbon burial and greenhouse gas emissions, respectively. The organic carbon burial ratios revealed an average increase of 2.44 times in carbon burial rates during the Anthropocene, while the carbon balance ratios were negative in 82.68% of lakes, indicating that most lakes had lower burial rates than emission rates and acted as carbon sources rather than carbon sinks. The organic carbon burial ratios exhibited a significantly decreasing latitudinal trend and were mainly influenced by its trophic state with the explained variation of 44.79%. They were also indirectly influenced by climate, lake morphometry and catchment properties through their interactions with the lake’s trophic state. The carbon balance ratios however showed nonsignificant latitudinal trend. They were primarily affected by lake catchment properties with the explained variation of 26.21% and were also indirectly affected by climate variables via the interactions with catchment properties. Overall, our study highlights that human activities such as lake eutrophication and catchment changes have altered the carbon sink and source in global lakes during the Anthropocene, and are essential drivers for future evaluations of lake carbon budgets.


organic carbon
carbon cycling


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