Physical controls and ENSO event influence on weathering in the Panama Canal Watershed

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Recent empirical studies have documented the importance of tropical mountainous rivers on global silicate weathering and suspended sediment transport. Such field studies are typically based on limited temporal data, leaving uncertainty in the strength of observed relationships with controlling parameters over the long term. A deficiency of long-term data also prevents determination of the impact that multi-year or decadal climate patterns, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), might have on weathering fluxes. Here we analyze an 18-year hydrochemical dataset for eight sub-basins of the Panama Canal Watershed of high-temporal frequency collected between 1998 and 2015 to address these knowledge gaps. We identified a strongly positive covariance of both cation (Ca2+, Mg2+, K+, Na+) and suspended sediment yields with precipitation and extent of forest cover, whereas we observed negative relationships with temperature and mosaic landcover. We also confirmed a statistical relationship between seasonality, ENSO, and river discharge, with significantly higher values occurring during La Niña events. These findings emphasize the importance that long-term datasets have on identifying short-term influences on chemical and physical weathering rates, especially, in ENSO-influenced regions.

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Scientific Reports

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