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Title: Biogeochemical responses over 37 years to manipulation of phosphorus concentrations in an Arctic river: The Upper Kuparuk River Experiment

The climate of the Arctic region is changing rapidly, with important implications for permafrost, vegetation communities, and transport of solutes by streams and rivers to the Arctic Ocean. While research on Arctic streams and rivers has accelerated in recent years, long‐term records are relatively rare compared to temperate and tropical regions. We began monitoring the upper Kuparuk River in 1983 as part of a long‐term, low‐level, whole‐season phosphorus enrichment of a 4–6 km experimental reach, which was subsequently incorporated into the Arctic Long‐Term Ecological Research (Arctic LTER) programme. The phosphorus enrichment phase of the Upper Kuparuk River Experiment (UKRE) ran continuously for 34 seasons, fundamentally altering the community structure and function of the Fertilized reach. The objectives of this paper are to (a) update observations of the environmental conditions in the Kuparuk River region as revealed by long‐term, catchment‐level monitoring, (b) compare long‐term trends in biogeochemical characteristics of phosphorus‐enriched and reference reaches of the Kuparuk River, and (c) report results from a new ‘ReFertilization’ experiment. During the UKRE, temperature and discharge did not change significantly, though precipitation increased slightly. However, the UKRE revealed unexpected community state changes attributable to phosphorus enrichment (e.g., appearance of colonizing bryophytes) and long‐term legacy more » effects of these state changes after cessation of the phosphorus enrichment. The UKRE also revealed important biogeochemical trends (e.g., increased nitrate flux and benthic C:N, decreased DOP flux). The decrease in DOP is particularly notable in that this may be a pan‐Arctic trend related to permafrost thaw and exposure to new sources of iron that reduce phosphorus mobility to streams and rivers. The trends revealed by the UKRE would have been difficult or impossible to identify without long‐term, catchment level research and may have important influences on connections between Arctic headwater catchments and downstream receiving waters, including the Arctic Ocean.

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Hydrological Processes
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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