, Volume 172, Issue 1, pp 129–148 | Cite as

Geochemical processes in the Lake Fryxell Basin (Victoria Land, Antarctica)

  • William J. Green
  • Thomas J. Gardner
  • Timothy G. Ferdelman
  • Michael P. Angle
  • Lawrence C. Varner
  • Philip Nixon
Rivers and streams


Major ion, nutrient, transition metal, and cadmium concentrations are presented for nine meltwater streams flowing into Lake Fryxell, a permanently stratified lake with an anoxic hypolimnion in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. For the major ions, stream compositions are considered in terms of dissolution of marine-derived salts and chemical weathering of local rocks. Although Lake Fryxell has undergone significant evaporative concentration, only calcite, of the simple salts, is predicted to precipitate. Geochemical budgets indicate, however, that large quantities of K, Mg, and SO4 have also been removed from the lake. Reverse weathering may be an important sink for K and Mg, although magnesium removal with calcium carbonate phases is also likely. Assuming constancy of composition over recent geologic time, all of the salts in the Fryxell water column could have been delivered under present flows in about three thousand years (chloride age).

Comparison of nutrient concentrations in these meltwater streams with other flowing waters in the world reveals that the Fryxell streams are strikingly deficient in NO3-N but not PO4-P. The apparent nitrogen deficiency in Lake Fryxell itself can be attributed to the low annual stream loadings of this nutrient.

Stream concentrations and loadings are also presented for Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, and Cd. ‘Dissolved’ metal concentrations correlate roughly with average crustal abundances, suggesting that chemical weathering is the major source for these elements. Vertical metal profiles within Lake Fryxell itself appear to be governed by the formation of insoluble sulfide phases, or, in the case of Mn, by MnHPO4. However, dissolved nickel levels in sulfide-bearing waters are much higher than can be explained in terms of metal-sulfide equilibria, and we suspect that significant organic complexing of this metal is occurring in the deeper waters.

Key words

anoxic basin Antarctic streams geochemical processes Lake Fryxell metal cycling nitrogen deficiency reverse weathering 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • William J. Green
    • 1
  • Thomas J. Gardner
    • 1
  • Timothy G. Ferdelman
    • 1
  • Michael P. Angle
    • 1
  • Lawrence C. Varner
    • 1
  • Philip Nixon
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Interdisciplinary StudiesMiami UniversityOxford

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