Seasonal Variability of Riverine Geochemistry (87Sr/86Sr, δ13CDIC, δ44/40Ca, and major ions) in Permafrost Watersheds on the North Slope of Alaska

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Gregory O Lehn1, Andrew D Jacobson1, Thomas A Douglas2, James W McClelland3, Matt S Khosh4 and Amanda J Barker5, (1)Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, United States, (2)US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville, FL, United States, (3)University of Texas Marine Science Institute, Port Aransas, TX, United States, (4)University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, United States, (5)University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, United States
Global climate models predict amplified warming at high latitudes, where permafrost soils have historically acted as a carbon sink. As warming occurs, the seasonally thawed active layer will propagate downward into previously frozen mineral-rich soil, releasing carbon and introducing unique chemical weathering signatures into rivers. We use variations in the 87Sr/86Sr, δ13CDIC, δ44/40Ca, and major ion geochemistry of rivers to track seasonal active layer dynamics. We collected water from six streams on the North Slope of Alaska between May and October, 2009 and 2010. All rivers drain continuous permafrost but three drain tussock tundra-dominated watersheds and three drain steeper bedrock catchments with minor tundra coverage. In tundra streams, elevated 87Sr/86Sr ratios, low δ13CDIC values and major ions ([Na+]+[K+]/ [Ca+2]+[Mg+2]) in spring melt runoff suggest flushing of shallow soils with relatively low carbonate content. By July, 87Sr/86Sr ratios stabilize at relatively low values and δ13CDIC at relatively higher values, indicating the active layer thawed into deeper carbonate-rich soils. In bedrock streams, elevated 87Sr/86Sr ratios correlate with high discharge. By late fall, bedrock stream 87Sr/86Sr ratios decrease steadily, consistent with increased carbonate weathering. Nearly constant δ13CDIC values and high [SO4-2] for most of the melt season imply significant sulfuric acid-carbonate weathering in bedrock streams. δ13CDIC values suggest a shift to carbonic acid-carbonate weathering in late 2010, possibly due to limited oxygen for pyrite oxidation during freezing of the active layer. δ44/40Ca values in both tundra and bedrock streams increase during the seasons, suggesting increased uptake of 40Ca by plants. δ44/40Ca values of rivers are at least 0.1-0.2‰ higher than their watershed soils, rocks and sediments, suggesting significant plant uptake. Our findings show how seasonal changes in mineral weathering have potential for tracking active layer dynamics.