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Estuaries act as strong carbon and nutrient filters and are relevant contributors to the atmospheric CO2 budget. They thus play an important, yet poorly constrained, role for global biogeochemical cycles and climate. This manuscript reviews recent developments in the modelling of estuarine biogeochemical dynamics. The first part provides an overview of the dominant physical and biogeochemical processes that control the transformations and fluxes of carbon and nutrients along the estuarine gradient. It highlights the tight links between estuarine geometry, hydrodynamics and scalar transport, as well as the role of transient and nonlinear dynamics. The most important biogeochemical processes are then discussed in the context of key biogeochemical indicators such as the net ecosystem metabolism (NEM), air–water CO2 fluxes, nutrient-filtering capacities and element budgets. In the second part of the paper, we illustrate, on the basis of local estuarine modelling studies, the power of reaction-transport models (RTMs) in understanding and quantifying estuarine biogeochemical dynamics. We show how a combination of RTM and high-resolution data can help disentangle the complex process interplay, which underlies the estuarine NEM, carbon and nutrient fluxes, and how such approaches can provide integrated assessments of the air–water CO2 fluxes along river–estuary–coastal zone continua. In addition, trends in estuarine biogeochemical dynamics across estuarine geometries and environmental scenario are explored, and the results are discussed in the context of improving the modelling of estuarine carbon and CO2 dynamics at regional and global scales.
- Reactive-transport models Land–ocean continuum Carbon cycle CO2 Estuaries Biogeochemistry