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Nutrient dynamics in partially drained arctic thaw lakes

January 2, 2018

Thaw lakes are ubiquitous on arctic coastal plains (ACPs). While many thaw lakes have steep banks, stable water levels, and static surface areas, others only partially fill their basins and vary in area over the summer. These partially drained lakes (PDLs) are hydrologically connected to the wetlands immediately surrounding them. Heat and nutrient availability limit aquatic productivity on ACPs, and we hypothesized that shallow shorelines and greater hydrologic connectivity with the landscape should result in greater nutrient concentrations and biogeochemical cycling in PDLs. We tested this by monitoring water chemistry in lakes with varying levels of seasonal drainage in sandy and silty peaty lowland sites on the ACP of Alaska. One highly drained lake (N1) was significantly warmer than minimally drained lakes (minDLs) related to earlier ice off, reaching temperatures as high as 16 °C in June when minDLs still contained ice. Ammonia, total dissolved phosphorus, and dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations were higher in lakes with greater drainage, and concentrations in N1 rivaled those in the small, biologically productive ponds. Many PDLs displayed a midsummer decrease in nutrients consistent with assimilation by the aquatic ecosystem, and a late‐summer increase most likely related to runoff from drained lake margins following precipitation. N1 exported kilograms of ammonium and total dissolved phosphorus to the stream network over the summer. Given increased warming and drying in the arctic, the proportion of PDLs may be changing, which in turn may affect nutrient and organic matter availability in arctic lakes and export to downstream environments.

Publication Year 2018
Title Nutrient dynamics in partially drained arctic thaw lakes
DOI 10.1002/2017JG004187
Authors Joshua C. Koch, Tom F. Fondell, Joel A. Schmutz, Sarah M. Laske
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Index ID 70198330
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Water