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  1. Abstract

    Biospheric particulate organic carbon (POCbio) burial and rock petrogenic particulate organic carbon (POCpetro) oxidation are opposing long‐term controls on the global carbon cycle, sequestering and releasing carbon, respectively. Here, we examine how watershed glacierization impacts the POC source by assessing the concentration and isotopic composition (δ13C and Δ14C) of POC exported from four watersheds with 0%–49% glacier coverage across a melt season in Southeast Alaska. We used two mixing models (age‐weight percent and dual carbon isotope) to calculate concentrations of POCbioand POCpetrowithin the bulk POC pool. The fraction POCpetrocontribution was highest in the heavily glacierized watershed (age‐weight percent: 0.39 ± 0.05; dual isotope: 0.42 (0.37–0.47)), demonstrating a glacial source of POCpetroto fjords. POCpetrowas mobilized via glacier melt and subglacial flow, while POCbiowas largely flushed from the non‐glacierized landscape by rain. Flow normalized POCbioconcentrations exceeded POCpetroconcentrations for all streams, but surprisingly were highest in the heavily glacierized watershed (mean: 0.70 mgL−1; range 0.16–1.41 mgL−1), suggesting that glacier rivers can contribute substantial POCbioto coastal waters. Further, the most heavily glacierized watershed had the highest sediment concentration (207 mgL−1; 7–708 mgL−1), and thus may facilitate long‐term POCbioprotection via sediment burial in glacier‐dominated fjords. Our results suggest that continuing glacial retreat will decrease POC concentrations and increase POCbio:POCpetroexported from currently glacierized watersheds. Glacier retreat may thus decrease carbon storage in marine sediments and provide a positive feedback mechanism to climate change that is sensitive to future changes in POCpetrooxidation.

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  2. Abstract

    West Siberia contains some of the largest soil carbon stores on Earth owing to vast areas of peatlands and permafrost, with the region warming far faster than the global average. Organic matter transported in fluvial systems is likely to undergo distinct compositional changes as peatlands and permafrost warm. However, the influence of peatlands and permafrost on future dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition is not well characterized. To better understand how these environmental drivers may impact DOM composition in warming Arctic rivers, we used ultrahigh resolution Fourier‐transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry to analyze riverine DOM composition across a latitudinal gradient of West Siberia spanning both permafrost‐influenced and permafrost‐free watersheds and varying proportions of peatland cover. We find that peatland cover explains much of the variance in DOM composition in permafrost‐free watersheds in West Siberia, but this effect is suppressed in permafrost‐influenced watersheds. DOM from warm permafrost‐free watersheds was more heterogenous, higher molecular weight, and relatively nitrogen enriched in comparison to DOM from cold permafrost‐influenced watersheds, which were relatively enriched in energy‐rich peptide‐like and aliphatic compounds. Therefore, we predict that as these watersheds warm, West Siberian rivers will export more heterogeneous DOM with higher average molecular weight than at present. Such compositional shifts have been linked to different fates of DOM in downstream ecosystems. For example, a shift toward higher molecular weight, less energy‐rich DOM may lead to a change in the fate of this material, making it more susceptible to photochemical degradation processes, particularly in the receiving Arctic Ocean.

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  3. Abstract

    Sources of dissolved and particulate carbon to the Fraser River system vary significantly in space and time. Tributaries in the northern interior of the basin consistently deliver higher concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to the main stem than other tributaries. Based on samples collected near the Fraser River mouth throughout 2013, the radiocarbon age of DOC exported from the Fraser River does not change significantly across seasons despite a spike in DOC concentration during the freshet, suggesting modulation of heterogeneous upstream chemical and isotopic signals during transit through the river basin. Dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentrations are highest in the Rocky Mountain headwater region where carbonate weathering is evident, but also in tributaries with high DOC concentrations, suggesting that DOC respiration may be responsible for a significant portion of DIC in this basin. Using an isotope and major ion mass balance approach to constrain the contributions of carbonate and silicate weathering and DOC respiration, we estimate that up to 33 ± 11% of DIC is derived from DOC respiration in some parts of the Fraser River basin. Overall, these results indicate close coupling between the cycling of DOC and DIC, and that carbon is actively processed and transformed during transport through the river network.

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  4. Abstract

    Arctic warming is causing ancient perennially frozen ground (permafrost) to thaw, resulting in ground collapse, and reshaping of landscapes. This threatens Arctic peoples' infrastructure, cultural sites, and land-based natural resources. Terrestrial permafrost thaw and ongoing intensification of hydrological cycles also enhance the amount and alter the type of organic carbon (OC) delivered from land to Arctic nearshore environments. These changes may affect coastal processes, food web dynamics and marine resources on which many traditional ways of life rely. Here, we examine how future projected increases in runoff and permafrost thaw from two permafrost-dominated Siberian watersheds—the Kolyma and Lena, may alter carbon turnover rates and OC distributions through river networks. We demonstrate that the unique composition of terrestrial permafrost-derived OC can cause significant increases to aquatic carbon degradation rates (20 to 60% faster rates with 1% permafrost OC). We compile results on aquatic OC degradation and examine how strengthening Arctic hydrological cycles may increase the connectivity between terrestrial landscapes and receiving nearshore ecosystems, with potential ramifications for coastal carbon budgets and ecosystem structure. To address the future challenges Arctic coastal communities will face, we argue that it will become essential to consider how nearshore ecosystems will respond to changing coastal inputs and identify how these may affect the resiliency and availability of essential food resources.

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  5. Abstract

    Groundwater is projected to become an increasing source of freshwater and nutrients to the Arctic Ocean as permafrost thaws, yet few studies have quantified groundwater inputs to Arctic coastal waters under contemporary conditions. New measurements along the Alaska Beaufort Sea coast show that dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen (DOC and DON) concentrations in supra-permafrost groundwater (SPGW) near the land-sea interface are up to two orders of magnitude higher than in rivers. This dissolved organic matter (DOM) is sourced from readily leachable organic matter in surface soils and deeper centuries-to millennia-old soils that extend into thawing permafrost. SPGW delivers approximately 400–2100 m3of freshwater, 14–71 kg of DOC, and 1–4 kg of DON to the coastal ocean per km of shoreline per day during late summer. These substantial fluxes are expected to increase as massive stocks of frozen organic matter in permafrost are liberated in a warming Arctic.

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  6. Abstract

    Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) flux from rivers in the pan‐Arctic watershed represents an important connection between major terrestrial carbon stocks and the Arctic Ocean. Previous estimates of Arctic carbon flux and dissolved organic matter (DOM) seasonal dynamics have relied predominantly on measurements from the six major Arctic rivers, yet these may not be representative of northern high‐latitude constrained smaller watersheds. Here, we evaluate DOC concentration and DOM composition in the Onega River, a small Arctic watershed, using optical measurements and ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry. Compared to the six largest Arctic rivers, DOC, absorbance ata350, and indicators of terrestrial DOM (e.g., specific UV absorbance at 254 nm, modified aromaticity index, relative abundance of condensed aromatics and polyphenolics) were elevated in the Onega throughout the year. Seasonality was also generally muted in comparison to the major Arctic rivers with relatively elevated DOC and terrestrial markers in both spring and fall seasons. The Onega exhibits a strong relationship betweena350and DOC, and its organic‐rich nature is apparent in its high DOC yield (4.85 g m2yr−1), and higher chromophoric DOM per unit DOC than the six largest Arctic rivers. As DOC yield from the Onega may be more representative of smaller northern high‐latitude rivers, we derived a new pan‐Arctic DOC flux scaling estimate which is over 50% higher than previous estimates scaled solely from the six major Arctic rivers. These observations suggest that smaller northern high‐latitude rivers may be underrepresented in Arctic carbon flux models and highlights uncertainty around constraining the export of DOC to the Arctic Ocean.

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  7. Abstract

    Projections of Antarctica's contribution to future sea level rise are associated with significant uncertainty, in part because the observational record is too short to capture long‐term processes necessary to estimate ice mass changes over societally relevant timescales. Records of grounding line retreat from the geologic past offer an opportunity to extend our observations of these processes beyond the modern record and to gain a more comprehensive understanding of ice‐sheet change. Here, we present constraints on the timing and inland extent of deglacial grounding line retreat in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica, obtained via direct sampling of a subglacial lake located 150 km inland from the modern grounding line and beneath >1 km of ice. Isotopic measurements of water and sediment from the lake enabled us to evaluate how the subglacial microbial community accessed radiocarbon‐bearing organic carbon for energy, as well as where it transferred carbon metabolically. Using radiocarbon as a natural tracer, we found that sedimentary organic carbon was microbially translocated to dissolved carbon pools in the subglacial hydrologic system during the 4.5‐year period of water accumulation prior to our sampling. This finding indicates that the grounding line along the Siple Coast of West Antarctica retreated more than 250 km inland during the mid‐Holocene (6.3 ± 1.0 ka), prior to re‐advancing to its modern position.

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  8. Abstract

    A portion of the charcoal and soot produced during combustion processes on land (e.g., wildfire, burning of fossil fuels) enters aquatic systems as dissolved black carbon (DBC). In terms of mass flux, rivers are the main identified source of DBC to the oceans. Since DBC is believed to be representative of the refractory carbon pool, constraining sources of marine DBC is key to understanding the long-term persistence of carbon in our global oceans. Here, we use compound-specific stable carbon isotopes (δ13C) to reveal that DBC in the oceans is ~6‰ enriched in13C compared to DBC exported by major rivers. This isotopic discrepancy indicates most riverine DBC is sequestered and/or rapidly degraded before it reaches the open ocean. Thus, we suggest that oceanic DBC does not predominantly originate from rivers and instead may be derived from another source with an isotopic signature similar to that of marine phytoplankton.

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