On the biogeochemical signature of the Lena River from its headwaters to the Arctic Ocean

Semiletov, I. P.; Pipko, I. I.; Shakhova, N. E.; Dudarev, O. V.; Pugach, S. P.; Charkin, A. N.; McRoy, C. P.; Kosmach, D.; Gustafsson, O.
March 2011
Biogeosciences Discussions;2011, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p2093
Academic Journal
The Lena River integrates biogeochemical signals from its vast drainage basin and its signal reaches far out over the Arctic Ocean. Transformation of riverine organic carbon into mineral carbon, and mineral carbon into the organic form in the Lena River watershed, can be considered a quasi-equilibrated processes. Increasing the Lena discharge causes opposite effects on total organic (TOC) and inorganic (TCO2) carbon: TOC concentration increases, while TCO2 concentration decreases. Significant interannual variability in mean values of TCO2, TOC, and their sum (TC) has been found. This variability is determined by changes in land hydrology which cause differences in the Lena River discharge, because a negative correlation may be found between TC in 10 September and mean discharge in August (a time shift of about one month is required for water to travel from Yakutsk to the Laptev Sea). Total carbon entering the sea with the Lena discharge is estimated to be almost 10 Tg C y-1. The annual Lena River discharge of particulate organic carbon (POC) may be equal to 0.38 Tg (moderate to high estimate). If we instead accept Lisytsin's (1994) statement concerning the precipitation of 85-95% of total particulate matter (PM) (and POC) on the marginal "filter", then only about 0.03-0.04 Tg of POC reaches the Laptev Sea from the Lena River. The Lena's POC export would then be two orders of magnitude less than the annual input of eroded terrestrial carbon onto the shelf of the Laptev and East Siberian seas, which is about 4 Tg. The Lena River is characterized by relatively high concentrations 20 of primary greenhouse gases: CO2 and dissolved CH4. During all seasons the river is supersaturated in CO2 compared to the atmosphere: up to 1.5-2 fold in summer, and 4-5 fold in winter. This results in a narrow zone of significant CO2 supersaturation in the adjacent coastal sea. Spots of dissolved CH4 in the Lena delta channels may reach 100 nM, but the CH4 concentration decreases to 5-20nM towards the sea, which suggests only a minor role of riverborne export of CH4 for the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) CH4 budget in coastal waters. Instead, the seabed appears to be the source that provides most of the CH4 to the Arctic Ocean.


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