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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-347
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-347
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  29 Oct 2020

29 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Characterising organic carbon sources in Anthropocene affected Arctic upland lake catchments, Disko Island, West Greenland

Mark A. Stevenson1,2,a, Suzanne McGowan1, Emma J. Pearson3, George E. A. Swann1, Melanie J. Leng4,5, Vivienne J. Jones6, Joseph J. Bailey1,7,b, Xianyu Huang8, and Erika Whiteford9,10,c Mark A. Stevenson et al.
  • 1Centre for Environmental Geochemistry, School of Geography, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK
  • 2School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
  • 3School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
  • 4National Environmental Isotope Facility, British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham, NG12 5GG, UK
  • 5Centre for Environmental Geochemistry, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Leicestershire, LE12 5RD, UK
  • 6Environmental Change Research Centre, Department of Geography, University College London, London, WC1E 6BT, UK
  • 7Geography Department, York St John University, YO31 7EX, UK
  • 8State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology and School of Geography and Information Engineering, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430078, China
  • 9Department of Geography, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, UK
  • 10School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, NG11 8NS, UK
  • apresent address: School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
  • bpresent address: Geography Department, York St John University, YO31 7EX, UK
  • cpresent address: School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, NG11 8NS, UK

Abstract. The Arctic is rapidly changing, disrupting biogeochemical cycles and the processing, delivery and sedimentation of carbon (C), in linked terrestrial-aquatic systems. In this investigation, we coupled a hydrogeomorphic assessment of catchment soils, sediments and plants with a recent lake sediment sequence to understand the source and quality of organic carbon present in three Arctic upland lake catchments on Disko Island, located just south of the Low-High Arctic transition zone. This varied permafrost landscape has exposed soils with less vegetation cover at higher altitudes, and all lakes received varying extent of glacial meltwater inputs. We provide improved isotope and biomarker source identifications for palaeolimnological studies in high latitude regions, where terrestrial vegetation is at or close to its northerly and altitudinal range limit. The poorly developed catchment soils lead to lake waters with low dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations (≤ 1.5 mg L−1). Sedimentary Carbon / Nitrogen (C / N) ratios, the C isotope composition of organic matter (δ13Corg) and biomarker ratios (n-alkanes, n-alkanols, n-alkanoic acids and sterols) showed that sedimentary organic matter (OM) in these lakes is mostly derived from aquatic sources (algae and macrophytes). We used a 210 Pb dated sediment core to determine how carbon cycling in a lake-catchment system (Disko 2) had changed over recent centuries. Recent warming since the end of the Little Ice Age (LIA ~1860 AD), which accelerated after ca. 1950, led to melt of glacier ice and permafrost releasing nutrients and DOC to the lake, stimulating pronounced aquatic algal production, as shown by a > 10 fold increase in β-carotene, indicative of a major regime shift. Our findings highlight that in Arctic lakes with sparsely developed catchment vegetation and soils, recent Anthropocene warming results in pronounced changes to in-lake C processing and the deposition of more reactive, predominately autochthonous C, compared with extensively vegetated low Arctic systems.

Mark A. Stevenson et al.

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Short summary
We link detailed stable isotope and biomarker analyses from the catchments of three Arctic upland lakes on Disko Island (West Greenland) to a recent dated sediment core to understand how carbon cycling has changed over the past ~500 years. We find that the carbon deposited in sediments in these upland lakes are predominately sourced from in-lake production due to the catchments limited terrestrial vegetation and elevation and that recent increases in algal production link with climate change.
We link detailed stable isotope and biomarker analyses from the catchments of three Arctic...
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