1Key Laboratory of Marine Chemistry Theory and Technology Ministry of Education, Ocean University of China, Qingdao 266100, China
2Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute, Ansan P.O. Box 29, Kyonggi 425-600, Republic of Korea
3State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
*now at: Qingdao Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau of the People's Republic of China, Qingdao, 266001, China
Abstract. Chinese rivers deliver about 5–10% of global freshwater input and 15–20% of the global continental sediment to the world ocean. We report the riverine fluxes and concentrations of major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and silicon) in the rivers of the contiguous landmass of China and Korea in the northeast Asia. The rivers are generally enriched with dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and depleted in dissolved inorganic phosphate (PO43−) with very high DIN: PO43− concentration ratios. DIN, phosphorus, and silicon levels and loads in rivers are mainly affected by agriculture activities and urbanization, anthropogenic activities and adsorption on particulates, and rock types, climate and physical denudation intensity, respectively. Nutrient transports by rivers in the summer are 3–4 times higher than those in the winter with the exception of NH4+. The flux of NH4+ is rather constant throughout the year due to the anthropogenic sources such as the sewer discharge. As nutrient composition has changed in the rivers, ecosystems in estuaries and coastal sea have also changed in recent decades. Among the changes, a shift of limiting nutrients from phosphorus to nitrogen for phytoplankton production with urbanization is noticeable and in some areas silicon becomes the limiting nutrient for diatom productivity. A simple steady-state mass-balance box model was employed to assess nutrient budgets in the estuaries. The major Chinese estuaries export <15% of nitrogen, <6% of phosphorus required for phytoplankton production and ~4% of silicon required for diatom growth in the Chinese Seas (Bohai, Yellow Sea, East China Sea, South China Sea). This suggests that land-derived nutrients are largely confined to the immediate estuaries, and ecosystem in the coastal sea beyond the estuaries is mainly supported by other nutrient sources such as regeneration, open ocean and atmospheric deposition.