Particulate organic matter composition and organic carbon flux in Arctic valley glaciers: examples from the Bayelva River and adjacent Kongsfjorden
In the face of ongoing global warming and glacier retreat, the composition and flux of organic matter in glacier-fjord systems are key variables for updating the carbon cycle and budget, whereas the role of Arctic valley glaciers seems unimportant when compared with the huge Greenland Ice Sheet. Our field observations of the glacier-fed Bayelva River, Svalbard, and the adjacent Kongsfjorden allowed us to determine the compositions of particulate organic matter from glacier to fjord and also to estimate the flux of organic carbon, both for the river and for Svalbard in general.
Particulate organic carbon (POC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in the Bayelva River averaged 56 and 73 μM, respectively, in August 2012. Amino acids (AAs) and phytoplankton pigments accounted for ~ 10 % of the particulate organic matter (POM) in the Bayelva River, while AAs represented > 90 % of particulate nitrogen in fjord surface water, suggesting the strong in situ assimilation of organic matter. Bacteria accounts for 13 and 19 % of the POC in the Bayelva River and the Kongsfjorden, respectively, while values for particulate nitrogen (PN) are much higher (i.e., 36 % in Kongsfjorden).
The total discharge from the Bayelva River in 2012 was 29 × 106 m3. Furthermore, we calculated the annual POC, DOC, and PN fluxes for the river as 20 ± 1.6, 25 ± 5.6, and 4.7 ± 0.75 t, respectively. Using the POC content and DOC concentration data, we then estimated the annual POC and DOC fluxes for Svalbard glaciers. Although the estimated POC (0.056 ± 0.02 × 106 t yr-1) and DOC (0.02 ± 0.01 × 106 t yr-1) fluxes of Svalbard glaciers are small compared with those of the Greenland Ice Sheet, the area-weighted POC flux of Svalbard glaciers is twice that of the Greenland Ice Sheet, while the flux of DOC can be 4 to 7 times higher. Therefore, we propose that valley glaciers are efficient high-latitude sources of organic carbon.