Rendiconti Lincei

, Volume 27, Supplement 1, pp 191–199 | Cite as

Stable isotopes and digital elevation models to study nutrient inputs in high-arctic lakes

  • Edoardo CalizzaEmail author
  • Maria Letizia Costantini
  • David Rossi
  • Vittorio Pasquali
  • Giulio Careddu
  • Loreto Rossi
Environmental Changes in Arctic


Five major factors control nutrient and organic matter inputs in high-Arctic lakes, all potentially affected by climate change: ice cover; run-off from the watershed; aquatic and terrestrial primary productivity; guano deposition from birds. Quantifying these controls is a key first step to understand what combination of factors underlies the biological productivity in Arctic lakes and drives their ecological response to climate change. Based on C and N elemental content and stable isotope analysis in sediments belonging to three lakes in North Spitsbergen (Svalbard), Digital Elevation Models and drainage maps, we propose an integrated approach for the analysis of nutrient and organic matter inputs in lakes and the role of catchment hydro-geomorphology in determining inter-lake differences in the isotopic composition of sediments. Given its high run-off and large catchment, organic deposits in Tvillingvatnet were dominated by terrestrial inputs, whereas inputs were mainly of aquatic origin in Storvatnet, a lowland lake characterised by low potential run-off. In Kolhamna, organic deposits seemed to be dominated by inputs from birds. Isotopic signatures were similar between samples within each lake, representing precise tracers for studies on the effect of climate change on biogeochemical cycles in lakes. The presented approach proved to be an effective research pathway for the identification of factors underlying nutrient and organic matter inputs within each water body, as well as for the modelling of expected changes in nutrient content associated with changes in isotopic composition of sediments.


Nitrogen Carbon, sediment Biogeochemical cycle Climate change Hydro-ecology Svalbard 



This research has been conducted within the two Projects RIS-10242 (PI: E. Calizza) and RIS-10011 (PI: V. Pasquali) and was supported by Sapienza University Grants 2012. Authors wish to thank the CNR (Italy) for logistical support and Vetro Scientifica s.r.l. (; Rome, Italy) for providing high-quality laboratory materials.

Supplementary material

12210_2016_515_MOESM1_ESM.docx (122 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 122 kb)


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Copyright information

© Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Trophic Ecology, Department of Environmental BiologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.National Research Council, Institute for Water Research (CNR-IRSA)MonterotondoItaly
  3. 3.Department of Psychology-Neurosciences SectionSapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  4. 4.Department of Ecological and Biological Sciences (DEB)Tuscia UniversityViterboItaly

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