Articles | Volume 12, issue 21
Research article
05 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 05 Nov 2015

Permafrost coverage, watershed area and season control of dissolved carbon and major elements in western Siberian rivers

O. S. Pokrovsky, R. M. Manasypov, S. Loiko, L. S. Shirokova, I. A. Krickov, B. G. Pokrovsky, L. G. Kolesnichenko, S. G. Kopysov, V. A. Zemtzov, S. P. Kulizhsky, S. N. Vorobyev, and S. N. Kirpotin

Abstract. Analysis of organic and inorganic carbon (DOC and DIC, respectively), pH, Na, K, Ca, Mg, Cl, SO4 and Si in ~ 100 large and small rivers (< 10 to ≤ 150 000 km2) of western Siberia sampled in winter, spring, and summer over a more than 1500 km latitudinal gradient allowed establishing main environmental factors controlling the transport of river dissolved components in this environmentally important region, comprising continuous, discontinuous, sporadic and permafrost-free zones. There was a significant latitudinal trend consisting in a general decrease in DOC, DIC, SO4, and major cation (Ca, Mg, Na, K) concentration northward, reflecting the interplay between groundwater feeding (detectable mostly in the permafrost-free zone, south of 60° N) and surface flux (in the permafrost-bearing zone). The northward decrease in concentration of inorganic components was strongly pronounced both in winter and spring, whereas for DOC, the trend of concentration decrease with latitude was absent in winter, and less pronounced in spring flood than in summer baseflow. The most significant decrease in K concentration from the southern (< 59° N) to the northern (61–67° N) watersheds occurs in spring, during intense plant litter leaching. The latitudinal trends persisted for all river watershed size, from < 100 to > 10 000 km2. Environmental factors are ranked by their increasing effect on DOC, DIC, δ13CDIC, and major elements in western Siberian rivers as follows: watershed area < season < latitude. Because the degree of the groundwater feeding is different between large and small rivers, we hypothesize that, in addition to groundwater feeding of the river, there was a significant role of surface and shallow subsurface flow linked to plant litter degradation and peat leaching. We suggest that plant-litter- and topsoil-derived DOC adsorbs on clay mineral horizons in the southern, permafrost-free and discontinuous/sporadic permafrost zone but lacks the interaction with minerals in the continuous permafrost zone. It can be anticipated that, under climate warming in western Siberia, the maximal change will occur in small (< 1000 km2 watershed) rivers DOC, DIC and ionic composition and this change will be mostly pronounced in summer.

Short summary
The governing parameter of DOC and major element concentrations and fluxes in western Siberia is latitude. High fluxes in the continuous permafrost zone of frozen peat bogs stem from the fact that the underlining mineral layer is not reactive, protected by the permafrost so that the major part of the active layer is located within the organic (peat) matrix and not the mineral matrix. Possible changes in export fluxes of DOC and major river water components under permafrost thaw are quantified.
Final-revised paper