Life Under the Ice: Spatial and Temporal Patterns in Rates of Water Column and Sediment Respiration in 5 Alaskan Arctic Lakes

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Steven Sadro and Sally MacIntyre, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, United States
Alaskan arctic lakes lay covered by up to three meters of ice and snow for approximately two-thirds of the year, yet comparatively little is known about their ecosystem metabolism during this period. We combined the use of free-water measurements of dissolved oxygen (DO) and the laboratory incubation of sediment cores to characterize spatial and temporal patterns in the ecosystem respiration (ER) of five arctic lakes spanning a gradient in size from 1 to 150 ha. Seasonal rates of ER throughout the water column ranged from < 0.001 to 0.034 mg L-1 h-1; sediment ER ranged from mg 6.1 m-2 h-1 to 50.7 mg m-2 h-1. Although there were significant differences in sediment ER among lakes, average water column ER did not differ significantly. Seasonal patterns of DO draw down were most often linear. However, within the water column above the deepest basin of each lake, rates were higher during autumn – winter than winter – spring, with the lowest rates typically found in the upper 70% of the water column and the highest rates near the bottom. ER measured near the bottom along the slope of lake basins was lower than that at the center of lake basins and closer in magnitude to water column ER. Spatial patters in free-water rates were reflected by sediment ER, which was 21 – 66 % higher in cores collected from the deepest point of lake basins than in sediments collected at shallower locations found at the margin of basins. These observations suggest that two mechanisms operating in tandem account for the higher apparent rates of DO drawdown found within lake basins during the winter. Higher local rates of sediment ER and, similar to observations in other lakes, the transport of DO depleted waters from lake margins to deep basins. Together they contribute to the formation of hypoxia in the deeper basins of lakes and the concentration of other respiratory products, with important implications for energy flow within lakes and carbon budgets across the arctic.