, Volume 10, Issue 3-4, pp 221-238

Reach-Scale Cation Exchange Controls on Major Ion Chemistry of an Antarctic Glacial Meltwater Stream

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Abstract

McMurdo dry valleys of Antarctica represent the largest of the ice-free areas on the Antarctic continent, containing glaciers, meltwater streams, and closed basin lakes. Previous geochemical studies of dry valley streams and lakes have addressed chemical weathering reactions of hyporheic substrate and geochemical evolution of dry valley surface waters. We examine cation transport and exchange reactions during a stream tracer experiment in a dry valley glacial meltwater stream. The injection solution was composed of dissolved Li+, Na+, K+, and Cl-. Chloride behaved conservatively in this stream, but Li+, Na+, and K+ were reactive to varying degrees. Mass balance analysis indicates that relative to Cl-, Li+ and K+ were taken up in downstream transport and Na+ was released. Simulations of conservative and reactive (first-order uptake or generation) solute transport were made with the OTIS (one-dimensional solute transport with inflow and storage) model. Among the four experimental reaches of Green Creek, solute transport simulations reveal that Li+ was removed from stream water in all four reaches, K+ was released in two reaches, taken up in one reach, and Na+ was released in all four reaches. Hyporheic sediments appear to be variable with uptake of Li+ in two reaches, uptake of K+ in one reach, release of K+ in two reaches, and uptake of Na+ in one reach. Mass balances of the conservative and reactive simulations show that from 1.05 to 2.19 moles of Li+ was adsorbed per reach, but less than 0.3 moles of K+ and less than 0.9 moles of Na+ were released per reach. This suggests that either (1) exchange of another ion which was not analyzed in this experiment or (2) that both ion exchange and sorption control inorganic solute transport. The elevated cation concentrations introduced during the experiment are typical of initial flows in each flow season, which flush accumulated dry salts from the streambed. We propose that the bed sediments (which compose the hyporheic zone) modulate the flushing of these salts during initial flows each season, due to ion exchange and sorption reactions.