Urbanization and seasonality strengthens the CO2 capacity of the Red River Delta, Vietnam

Jorge Salgado* (Corresponding author), Trinh Anh Duc`, Do Thu Nga, Virginia N. Panizzo, Adrian M. Bass, Ying Zheng, Sarah Taylor, Lucy R. Roberts, Jack H. Lacey, Melanie J. Leng, Suzanne McGowan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Tropical rivers are dynamic CO2 sources. Regional patterns in the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) and relationships with other a/biotic factors in densely populated and rapidly developing river delta regions of Southeast Asia are still poorly constrained. Over one year, at 21 sites across the river system in the Red River Delta (RRD), Vietnam, we calculated pCO2 levels from temperature, pH, and total alkalinity and inter-linkages between pCO2 and phytoplankton, water chemistry and seasonality were then assessed. The smaller, more urbanized, and polluted Day River had an annual median pCO2 of 5000 ± 3300 µatm and the larger Red River of 2675 ± 2271 µatm. pCO2 was 1.6 and 3.2 times higher during the dry season in the Day and Red rivers respectively than the rainy season. Elevated pCO2 levels in the Day River during the dry season were also 2.4-fold higher than the median value (2811 ± 3577 µatm) of calculated and direct pCO2 measurements in >20 sub/tropical rivers. By further categorizing the river data into Hanoi City vs. other less urban-populated provinces, we found significantly higher nutrients, organic matter content, and riverine cyanobacteria during the dry season in the Day River across Hanoi City. Forward selection also identified riverine cyanobacteria and river discharge as the main predictors explaining pCO2 variation in the RRD. After accounting for the shared effects (14%), river discharge alone significantly explained 12% of the pCO2 variation, cyanobacteria uniquely a further 21%, while 53% of the pCO2 variance was unexplained by either. We show that the urbanization of rivers deltas could result in increased sources of riverine pCO2, water pollution, and harmful cyanobacterial blooms. Such risks could be mitigated through water management to increase water flows in problem areas during the dry season.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104052
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • climate change
  • eutrophication
  • harmful algal blooms
  • pCO
  • river heterotrophy
  • tropical river deltas

Research theme

  • Sustainable water and land use


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