Biogeochemical cycling and ecological thresholds in a High Arctic lake (Svalbard)
Luoto, T. P., Rantala, M. V., Kivilä, H., Nevalainen, L., & Ojala, A. E. K. (2019). Biogeochemical cycling and ecological thresholds in a High Arctic lake (Svalbard). Aquatic Sciences, 81 (2), 34. doi:10.1007/s00027-019-0630-7
Published inAquatic Sciences
© The Author(s) 2019.
Lakes are a dominant feature of the Arctic landscape and a focal point of regional and global biogeochemical cycling. We collected a sediment core from a High Arctic Lake in southwestern Svalbard for multiproxy paleolimnological analysis. The aim was to find linkages between the terrestrial and aquatic environments in the context of climate change to understand centennial-long Arctic biogeochemical cycling and environmental dynamics. Two significant thresholds in elemental cycling were found based on sediment physical and biogeochemical proxies that were associated with the end of the cold Little Ice Age and the recent warming. We found major shifts in diatom, chironomid and cladoceran communities and their functionality that coincided with increased summer temperatures since the 1950s. We also discovered paleoecological evidence that point toward expanded bird (Little Auk) colonies in the catchment alongside climate warming. Apparently, climate-driven increase in glacier melt water delivery as well as a prolonged snow- and ice-free period have increased the transport of mineral matter from the catchment, causing significant water turbidity and disappearance of several planktonic diatoms and clear-water chironomids. We also found sedimentary accumulation of microplastic particles following the increase in Little Auk populations suggesting that seabirds potentially act as biovectors for plastic contamination. Our study demonstrates the diverse nature of climate-driven changes in the Arctic lacustrine environment with increased inorganic input from the more exposed catchment, larger nutrient delivery from the increased bird colonies at the surrounding mountain summits and subsequent alterations in aquatic communities. ...