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Long-term trends in Arctic riverine chemistry signal multi-faceted northern change

October 6, 2023

Rivers integrate processes occurring throughout their watersheds and are therefore sentinels of change across broad spatial scales. River chemistry also regulates ecosystem function across Earth’s land–ocean continuum, exerting control from the micro- (for example, local food web) to the macro- (for example, global carbon cycle) scale. In the rapidly warming Arctic, a wide range of processes—from permafrost thaw to biological uptake and transformation—might reasonably alter river water chemistry. Here we use data from major rivers that collectively drain two-thirds of the Arctic Ocean watershed to assess widespread change in biogeochemical function within the pan-Arctic basin from 2003 to 2019. While the oceanward flux of alkalinity and associated ions increased markedly over this time frame, nitrate and other inorganic nutrient fluxes declined. Fluxes of dissolved organic carbon showed no overall trend. This divergence in response indicates the perturbation of multiple processes on land, with implications for biogeochemical cycling in the coastal ocean. We anticipate that these findings will facilitate refinement of conceptual and numerical models of current and future functioning of Arctic coastal ecosystems and spur research on scale-dependent change across the river-integrated Arctic domain.

Publication Year 2023
Title Long-term trends in Arctic riverine chemistry signal multi-faceted northern change
DOI 10.1038/s41561-023-01247-7
Authors Suzanne E. Tank, James W. McClelland, Robert G. M. Spencer, Alexander I. Shiklomanov, Anya Suslova, Florentina Moatar, Rainer Amon, Lee W. Cooper, Greg Elias, Vyacheslav Gordeev, Christopher Guay, Tatiana Gurtovaya, Lyudmila Kosmenko, Edda A. Mutter, Bruce Peterson, Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink, Peter Raymond, Paul Schuster, Lindsay Scott, Robin Staples, Robert G. Striegl, Mikhail Tretiakov, Alexander V. Zhulidov, Nikita Zimov, Sergey Zimov, Robert M. Holmes
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature Geoscience
Index ID 70249444
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Earth System Processes Division