Articles | Volume 12, issue 12
Biogeosciences, 12, 3769–3788, 2015
Biogeosciences, 12, 3769–3788, 2015

Research article 19 Jun 2015

Research article | 19 Jun 2015

Characterization of particulate organic matter in the Lena River delta and adjacent nearshore zone, NE Siberia – Part I: Radiocarbon inventories

M. Winterfeld1,2, T. Laepple3, and G. Mollenhauer1,2 M. Winterfeld et al.
  • 1Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Am Handelshafen 12, 25570 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 2Department of Geosciences, University of Bremen, Klagenfurter Straße, 28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 3Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Telegrafenberg A43, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Particulate organic matter (POM) derived from permafrost soils and transported by the Lena River represents a quantitatively important terrestrial carbon pool exported to Laptev Sea sediments (next to POM derived from coastal erosion). Its fate in a future warming Arctic, i.e., its remobilization and remineralization after permafrost thawing as well as its transport pathways to and sequestration in marine sediments, is currently under debate. We present one of the first radiocarbon (14C) data sets for surface water POM within the Lena Delta sampled in the summers of 2009–2010 and spring 2011 (n = 30 samples). The bulk Δ14C values varied from −55 to −391 ‰ translating into 14C ages of 395 to 3920 years BP. We further estimated the fraction of soil-derived POM to our samples based on (1) particulate organic carbon to particulate nitrogen ratios (POC : PN) and (2) on the stable carbon isotope (δ13C) composition of our samples. Assuming that this phytoplankton POM has a modern 14C concentration, we inferred the 14C concentrations of the soil-derived POM fractions. The results ranged from −322 to −884 ‰ (i.e., 3060 to 17 250 14C years BP) for the POC : PN-based scenario and from −261 to −944 ‰ (i.e., 2370 to 23 100 14C years BP) for the δ13C-based scenario. Despite the limitations of our approach, the estimated Δ14C values of the soil-derived POM fractions seem to reflect the heterogeneous 14C concentrations of the Lena River catchment soils covering a range from Holocene to Pleistocene ages better than the bulk POM Δ14C values. We further used a dual-carbon-isotope three-end-member mixing model to distinguish between POM contributions from Holocene soils and Pleistocene Ice Complex (IC) deposits to our soil-derived POM fraction. IC contributions are comparatively low (mean of 0.14) compared to Holocene soils (mean of 0.32) and riverine phytoplankton (mean of 0.55), which could be explained with the restricted spatial distribution of IC deposits within the Lena catchment. Based on our newly calculated soil-derived POM Δ14C values, we propose an isotopic range for the riverine soil-derived POM end member with Δ14C of −495 ± 153 ‰ deduced from our δ13C-based binary mixing model and δ13C of −26.6 ± 1 ‰ deduced from our data of Lena Delta soils and literature values. These estimates can help to improve the dual-carbon-isotope simulations used to quantify contributions from riverine soil POM, Pleistocene IC POM from coastal erosion, and marine POM in Siberian shelf sediments.

Final-revised paper