Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 369–382 | Cite as

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

  • Robert Max HolmesEmail author
  • James W. McClelland
  • Bruce J. Peterson
  • Suzanne E. Tank
  • Ekaterina Bulygina
  • Timothy I. Eglinton
  • Viacheslav V. Gordeev
  • Tatiana Y. Gurtovaya
  • Peter A. Raymond
  • Daniel J. Repeta
  • Robin Staples
  • Robert G. Striegl
  • Alexander V. Zhulidov
  • Sergey A. Zimov


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 



This work was supported by the National Science Foundation through grants OPP-0229302, OPP-0519840, OPP-0732522, OPP-0732944, and OCE-0851101. Additional support was provided by the US Geological Survey (Yukon River) and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (Mackenzie River). We thank Suzanne Thomas and Kate Morkeski for assistance using Loadest to model constituent fluxes and Rainer Amon, Tim Brabets, Ludmila Boeva, Ludmila Kosmenko, Charlie Couvillon, Elena Dunaeva, Martin Kelly, Dave Milburn, Yana Adreeva, Anna Suslova, and Mikhail Suslov for assistance with sample collection or project coordination. Greg Fiske assisted with GIS analysis and figures and Alexander Shiklomanov provided additional discharge data for the Kolyma River.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Max Holmes
    • 1
    Email author
  • James W. McClelland
    • 2
  • Bruce J. Peterson
    • 3
  • Suzanne E. Tank
    • 3
  • Ekaterina Bulygina
    • 1
  • Timothy I. Eglinton
    • 4
  • Viacheslav V. Gordeev
    • 5
  • Tatiana Y. Gurtovaya
    • 6
  • Peter A. Raymond
    • 7
  • Daniel J. Repeta
    • 8
  • Robin Staples
    • 9
  • Robert G. Striegl
    • 10
  • Alexander V. Zhulidov
    • 6
  • Sergey A. Zimov
    • 11
  1. 1.The Woods Hole Research CenterWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.The University of Texas at AustinPort AransasUSA
  3. 3.Marine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA
  4. 4.Swiss Federal Institute of TechnologyZurichSwitzerland
  5. 5.P. P. Shirshov Institute of OceanologyRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  6. 6.South Russia Centre for Preparation and Implementation of International ProjectsRostov-on-DonRussia
  7. 7.Yale School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  8. 8.Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA
  9. 9.Department of Indian and Northern AffairsYellowknifeCanada
  10. 10.USGSBoulderUSA
  11. 11.Northeast Science StationCherskiyRussia

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