• An Erratum to this article was published on 19 March 2014


Carbon dioxide (CO2) transfer from inland waters to the atmosphere, known as CO2 evasion, is a component of the global carbon cycle. Global estimates of CO2 evasion have been hampered, however, by the lack of a framework for estimating the inland water surface area and gas transfer velocity and by the absence of a global CO2 database. Here we report regional variations in global inland water surface area, dissolved CO2 and gas transfer velocity. We obtain global CO2 evasion rates of 1.8  petagrams of carbon (Pg C) per year from streams and rivers and 0.32  Pg C yr−1 from lakes and reservoirs, where the upper and lower limits are respectively the 5th and 95th confidence interval percentiles. The resulting global evasion rate of 2.1 Pg C yr−1 is higher than previous estimates owing to a larger stream and river evasion rate. Our analysis predicts global hotspots in stream and river evasion, with about 70 per cent of the flux occurring over just 20 per cent of the land surface. The source of inland water CO2 is still not known with certainty and new studies are needed to research the mechanisms controlling CO2 evasion globally.

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P.A.R. and M.H were partly funded by a NASA grant (NNX11AH68G) to P.A.R. P.A.R. also received support from a fellowship from L-IPSL labex program. S.S. was supported by Formas. R.L. and J.H. were funded by the EU project GeoCarbon (U4603EUU1104) and by DFG (EXC 177 and DFG HA 4472/6-1). This represents a contribution to the RECCAP process. R.S. and D.B. are part of the Inland Water Science Group of the USGS LandCarbon Project.

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Author notes

    • Jens Hartmann
    • , Ronny Lauerwald
    •  & Sebastian Sobek

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 195 Prospect Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511, USA

    • Peter A. Raymond
    • , Mark Hoover
    •  & David Butman
  2. Institute for Geology, KlimaCampus, Universität Hamburg, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany

    • Jens Hartmann
    •  & Ronny Lauerwald
  3. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Université Libre de Bruxelles, B-1050 Bruxelles, Belgium

    • Ronny Lauerwald
  4. Department of Ecology and Genetics, Limnology, Uppsala University, SE-75236 Uppsala, Sweden

    • Sebastian Sobek
  5. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin 53716, USA

    • Cory McDonald
  6. US Geological Survey, National Research Program, Boulder, Colorado 80303, USA

    • David Butman
    •  & Robert Striegl
  7. Applied Physics Lab, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98105, USA

    • Emilio Mayorga
  8. Department of Applied Environmental Science, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden

    • Christoph Humborg
  9. Finnish Environment Institute, PO Box 140, FI-00251 Helsinki, Finland

    • Pirkko Kortelainen
  10. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada

    • Hans Dürr
  11. Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI), Unité Mixte de Recherche CNRS-UPMC Sisyphe, F-75252 Paris 05, France

    • Michel Meybeck
  12. LSCE IPSL, UMR8212, F-91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France

    • Philippe Ciais
  13. Department of Oceanography, US Naval Academy, 572C Holloway Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21402, USA

    • Peter Guth


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P.A.R. designed and performed this analysis and wrote most of the paper. S.S. performed the lake and reservoir CO2 and k analyses, and C.M. modelled lake and reservoir area data and provided material for these calculations for Supplementary Information. P.K. provided pCO2 data and helped with lake analyses. R.L. and J.H. produced the global CO2 data set. M.H. provided the GIS technical input. D.B. assisted with the GIS technical input and overall analysis and helped produce the figures. R.S. provided input on the use of USGS data and contributed to the overall analysis. E.M. provided COSCAT data on global discharge and dissolved organic carbon. H.D. provided COSCAT information and input on GIS analysis. P.K., C.H. and M.M. provided data for the lake CO2 global data set. P.C. provided assistance with the sensitivity analysis and writing the final paragraph. P.G. provided data necessary to determine average watershed area for COSCAT regions. All authors read and commented on drafts of this paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter A. Raymond.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Text and Data, Supplementary Tables 1-4, Supplementary Figures 1-7 and additional references.

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