Frontiers in Marine Science

Dissolved organic carbon dynamics and fluxes in Mississippi-Atchafalaya deltaic system impacted by an extreme flood event and hurricanes: a multi-satellite approach using Sentinel-2/3 and Landsat-8/9 Data

Author(s): Eurico J. D'Sa, Melissa M. Baustian, Kanchan Maiti, Victor Rivera-Monroy, Wei Huang

Transport of riverine and wetland-derived dissolved organic carbon (DOC) spanning tidal wetlands, estuaries, and continental shelf waters functionally connects terrestrial and aquatic carbon reservoirs, yet the magnitude and ecological significance of this variable and its spatiotemporal linkage remains uncertain for coastal deltaic regions, such as Mississippi River Delta Plain, which includes Mississippi (MR) and Atchafalaya (AR) rivers and estuaries with vast expanses of wetlands and coastal forests. We examined DOC dynamics and fluxes in this large river-dominated wetland-estuarine system for the period between 2019 and 2021 that included an extreme river flood event in 2019, two major hurricanes (Barry in 2019 and Ida in 2021), and cold front passage using an improved adaptive quasi-analytical algorithm (QAA-AD) applied to multi-satellite sensors (Sentinel 3A/B OLCI, Landsat-8/OLI and Sentinel-2A/B MSI) with varying spectral and spatial (10/30/300 m) resolutions. The DOC estimates from multi-satellite sensors in combination with water fluxes were used to assess DOC fluxes from two large rivers (MR and AR) and small channels across the delta plain. Overall, this system delivered a total of 6.7 Tg C yr-1 (1 Tg = 10^12g) into the estuarine zone and the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM) during 2019. High DOC fluxes from the AR (1.3 Tg C yr-1) and MR (4.5 Tg C yr-1) were associated with the extreme flood event in 2019. Hurricanes that occurred in the study period also contributed to the wetland and estuarine DOC fluxes into continental shelf waters; for example, the passage of Hurricane Barry in July 2019, delivered over a 3-day period ~1.33 ×109 g DOC from Barataria Basin into the nGoM. Sentinel 2-MSI land and water classification revealed that Hurricane Ida eroded a total of 1.34 ×10^8 m2 of marshes in middle Barataria Basin, converting those habitats into open water with 3.0 m inundation depth and high DOC concentrations (16.4 mg L-1), a potentially large DOC source to the coastal waters. Overall, storms and flood events are major sources of DOC flux that facilitate transport of upstream carbon as well as transformation of carbon in the wetlands, through the conversion of vegetated wetland to open water. Paper here.