29 Sep 2023
 | 29 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

The estimates of carbon sequestration potential in an expanding Arctic fjord affected by dark plumes of glacial meltwater (Hornsund, Svalbard)

Marlena Szeligowska, Déborah Benkort, Anna Przyborska, Mateusz Moskalik, Bernabé Moreno, Emilia Trudnowska, and Katarzyna Błachowiak-Samołyk

Abstract. In polar regions, glaciers are retreating onto land, gradually widening ice-free coastal waters which are known to act as new sinks of atmospheric carbon. However, the increasing delivery of inorganic suspended particulate matter (iSPM) with meltwater might significantly impact their capacity to contribute to carbon sequestration. Here, we present an analysis of satellite, meteorological, and SPM data as well as results of the coupled physical-biogeochemical model (1D GOTM-ECOSMO-E2E-Polar) with the newly implemented iSPM group, to show its impact on the ecosystem dynamics in the warming polar fjord (Hornsund, European Arctic). Our results indicate that with a longer melt season (9 days per decade, 1979–2022), loss of sea ice cover (44 days per decade, 1982–2021) and formation of new marine habitat after the retreat of marine-terminating glaciers (around 100 km2 in 1976–2022, 38 % increase in the total area), glacial meltwater has transported increasing loads of iSPM from land (3.7 g·m−3 per decade, reconstructed for 1979–2022). The simulated light limitation induced by iSPM input delayed and decreased phytoplankton, zooplankton, and macrobenthos peak occurrence. The newly ice-free areas markedly contributed to the plankton primary and secondary production, and carbon burial in sediments (5.1, 2.0, and 0.9 GgC per year, respectively, average for 2005–2009 in the iSPM scenario). However, these values would have been higher by 5.0, 2.1 and 0.1 GgC per year, respectively, without iSPM input. Carbon burial was the least affected by iSPM (around 16 % decrease in comparison to 50 % for plankton primary and secondary production) and thus the impact of marine ice loss and enhanced land-ocean connectivity should be investigated further in the context of carbon fluxes in expanding polar fjords.

Marlena Szeligowska et al.

Status: open (until 10 Jan 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on bg-2023-162', Wouter van der Niet, 03 Nov 2023 reply
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2023-162', Anonymous Referee #1, 20 Nov 2023 reply

Marlena Szeligowska et al.

Marlena Szeligowska et al.


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Short summary
European Arctic experiences rapid regional warming resulting in the retreat of glaciers terminating in the sea onto land. Due to this process, area of one of the well-studied fjords, Hornsund, increased by 100 km2 and 38 %. Using improved mathematical model, we estimated that despite some negative consequences of glacial meltwater release such newly ice-free area markedly contribute to atmospheric carbon uptake and become efficient carbon sinks.