Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 369-382

First online:

Seasonal and Annual Fluxes of Nutrients and Organic Matter from Large Rivers to the Arctic Ocean and Surrounding Seas

  • Robert Max HolmesAffiliated withThe Woods Hole Research Center Email author 
  • , James W. McClellandAffiliated withThe University of Texas at Austin
  • , Bruce J. PetersonAffiliated withMarine Biological Laboratory
  • , Suzanne E. TankAffiliated withMarine Biological Laboratory
  • , Ekaterina BulyginaAffiliated withThe Woods Hole Research Center
  • , Timothy I. EglintonAffiliated withSwiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • , Viacheslav V. GordeevAffiliated withP. P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences
  • , Tatiana Y. GurtovayaAffiliated withSouth Russia Centre for Preparation and Implementation of International Projects
  • , Peter A. RaymondAffiliated withYale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
    • , Daniel J. RepetaAffiliated withWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution
    • , Robin StaplesAffiliated withDepartment of Indian and Northern Affairs
    • , Robert G. StrieglAffiliated withUSGS
    • , Alexander V. ZhulidovAffiliated withSouth Russia Centre for Preparation and Implementation of International Projects
    • , Sergey A. ZimovAffiliated withNortheast Science Station

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River inputs of nutrients and organic matter impact the biogeochemistry of arctic estuaries and the Arctic Ocean as a whole, yet there is considerable uncertainty about the magnitude of fluvial fluxes at the pan-Arctic scale. Samples from the six largest arctic rivers, with a combined watershed area of 11.3 × 106 km2, have revealed strong seasonal variations in constituent concentrations and fluxes within rivers as well as large differences among the rivers. Specifically, we investigate fluxes of dissolved organic carbon, dissolved organic nitrogen, total dissolved phosphorus, dissolved inorganic nitrogen, nitrate, and silica. This is the first time that seasonal and annual constituent fluxes have been determined using consistent sampling and analytical methods at the pan-Arctic scale and consequently provide the best available estimates for constituent flux from land to the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas. Given the large inputs of river water to the relatively small Arctic Ocean and the dramatic impacts that climate change is having in the Arctic, it is particularly urgent that we establish the contemporary river fluxes so that we will be able to detect future changes and evaluate the impact of the changes on the biogeochemistry of the receiving coastal and ocean systems.


Arctic Rivers Arctic rivers Siberia Land–ocean linkage Climate change Permafrost Dissolved organic carbon DOC