Constraining dissolved organic matter sources and temporal variability in a model sub-Arctic lake

Abstract

Circumpolar lakes comprise ~ 1.4 million km2 of arctic and subarctic landscapes and are vulnerable to change in vegetation, permafrost distribution, and hydrological conditions in response to climate warming. However, the composition and cycling of dissolved organic matter (DOM) is poorly understood for these lakes because most are remote and unstudied. The goal of this study was to assess timescale and source controls on DOM composition in Canvasback Lake, a shallow, sub-Arctic lake in interior Alaska with similar hydrologic and geomorphic characteristics to about a quarter of circumpolar lake ecosystems. Lake dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration varied by as much as 16% from the mean (3.34 mg L−1 change) through diel cycles in spring 2016 to fall 2017 and was accompanied by minor changes in DOM composition. At the seasonal scale, DOC concentration increased from spring through fall to very high concentrations under ice in winter. Decreases in both condensed aromatic and polyphenolic compound classes and lignin carbon-normalized yield, plus increased relative abundance of aliphatic compounds, suggests that DOM composition shifts from a pulse of allochthonous DOM in the spring to more autochthonous under-ice. These changes highlight the seasonally-dynamic nature of DOM in circumpolar lakes that are poorly captured by single-visit lake surveys and underscores the need to measure DOM properties and fate consistently across multiple timescales (i.e. seasonally) to better constrain the role of DOM in lake processes. To further assess DOM sources, a suite of endmember leachates were compared to bulk lake DOM, indicating solely allochthonous inputs are not well reflected in lake DOM, highlighting the role of degradation processes or mixing with autochthonous sources. Thus, Canvasback Lake appears less well connected to terrestrial inputs compared to past studies of northern high-latitude lakes and does not behave as previous boreal lake models suggest.

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Acknowledgements

This project was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA-ABoVE Project 14-TE14-0012) to RGMS, RGS, and DEB. A portion of this work was performed at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory ICR User Facility, which is supported by the National Science Foundation Division of Chemistry through DMR-1157490 and DMR-1644779 and the State of Florida. The authors thank David Podgorski, Donald F. Smith, and all the other people in the NHMFL ICR program for assistance with data acquisition and processing, and Anne Kellerman for input during this study. The Winchester Fund at Florida State University partially supported travel to SEJ.

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Johnston, S.E., Bogard, M.J., Rogers, J.A. et al. Constraining dissolved organic matter sources and temporal variability in a model sub-Arctic lake. Biogeochemistry 146, 271–292 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-019-00619-9

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Keywords

  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Arctic lake
  • Carbon cycle
  • Diel
  • Lignin
  • Seasonal