CO2 storage and alkalinity trends in lakes

Abraham Lerman*, Werner Stumm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Greater transfer of CO2 from the atmosphere to lakes, as a first step towards its storage in lake sediments, can be driven by an increase in lake-water alkalinity. Higher alkalinity values in fresh-water lakes can be attained through biological productivity, carbonate-mineral dissolution, reduction reactions in water and sediments, or input of chemical bases. Alkalinity increase in lakes owing to the proton consumption in biogeological reduction of iron, manganese, nitrogen and sulfur species is at least in part balanced by alkalinity reducing processes, such as oxidation and carbonate deposition. At present, lakes varying in composition from very dilute to highly saline are at. or near, an equilibrium with the atmospheric CO2. On a global scale, transfer of about 1% of atmospheric CO2 to fresh-water lakes would raise their dissolved carbonate concentration by several tens of milligrams per liter. The present near-annual increment of atmospheric CO2 (2 × 1014 mole C yr-1) could be taken up by a mean net primary productivity of about 850 mg C m-2 yr-1, a value that is typical of eutrophic and tropical lakes. A comparable CO2 transfer to lakes may be attained by increases in alkalinity in the range 10-4-10-3 moll-1 and/or in pH in the range from 7.0 to 8.5.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-146
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1989


  • CO mass balance
  • acidity
  • alkalinity
  • atmosphere volume models
  • carbon dioxide (CO)
  • equilibria
  • global carbon cycle
  • lakes
  • photosynthesis (primary production)
  • sinks
  • transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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