, Volume 103, Issue 1-3, pp 109-124,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 09 May 2010

Seasonal and hydrologic drivers of dissolved organic matter and nutrients in the upper Kuparuk River, Alaskan Arctic

Abstract

As the planet warms, widespread changes in Arctic hydrology and biogeochemistry have been documented and these changes are expected to accelerate in the future. Improved understanding of the behavior of water-borne constituents in Arctic rivers with varying hydrologic conditions, including seasonal variations in discharge–concentration relationships, will improve our ability to anticipate future changes in biogeochemical budgets due to changing hydrology. We studied the relationship between seasonal water discharge and dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen (DOC and DON) and nutrient concentrations in the upper Kuparuk River, Arctic Alaska. Fluxes of most constituents were highest during initial snowmelt runoff in spring, indicating that this historically under-studied period contributes significantly to total annual export. In particular, the initial snowmelt period (the stream is completely frozen during the winter) accounted for upwards of 35% of total export of DOC and DON estimated for the entire study period. DOC and DON concentrations were positively correlated with discharge whereas nitrate (NO3 ) and silicate were negatively correlated with discharge throughout the study. However, discharge-specific DOC and DON concentrations (i.e. concentrations compared at the same discharge level) decreased over the summer whereas discharge-specific concentrations of NO3 and silicate increased. Soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) and ammonium (NH4 +) were negatively correlated with discharge during the spring thaw, but were less predictable with respect to discharge thereafter. These data provide valuable information on how Arctic watershed biogeochemistry will be affected by future changes in temperature, snowfall, and rainfall in the Arctic. In particular, our results add to a growing body of research showing that nutrient export per unit of stream discharge, particularly NO3 , is increasing in the Arctic.