Characterization of particulate organic matter in the Lena River delta and adjacent nearshore zone, NE Siberia – Part I: Radiocarbon inventories

Gesine.Mollenhauer [ at ]


Particulate organic matter (POM) derived from permafrost soils and transported by the Lena River represents a quantitatively important terrestrial carbon pool exported to Laptev Sea sediments (next to POM derived from coastal erosion). Its fate in a future warming Arctic, i.e. its remobilization and remineralization after permafrost thawing as well as its transport pathways to and sequestration in marine sediments is currently under debate. We present one of the first radiocarbon (14C) data sets for surface water POM within the Lena Delta sampled in summers 2009-2010 and spring 2011 (n=30 samples). The bulk ∆14C values varied from –55 to –391‰ translating into 14C ages of 395 to 3920 years BP. We further estimated the fraction of soil-derived POM to our samples based on 1) particulate organic carbon to particulate nitrogen ratios (POC:PN) and 2) on the stable carbon isotope (δ13C) composition of our samples. Assuming that this phytoplankton POM has a modern 14C concentration we inferred the 14C concentrations of the soil-derived POM fractions. The results ranged from –322 to –884 ‰ (i.e. 3.060 to 17,250 14C years BP) for the POC:PN-based scenario and from –261 to –944 ‰ (i.e. 2,370 to 23,100 14C years BP). Despite the limitations of our approach, the estimated ∆14C values of the soil-derived POM fractions seem to reflect the heterogeneous 14C concentrations of the Lena River catchment soils covering a range from Holocene to Pleistocene ages better than the bulk POM ∆14C values. We further used a dual-carbon isotope three end-member mixing model to distinguish between POM contributions from Holocene soils and Pleistocene Ice Complex deposits to our soil-derived POM fraction. Ice Complex contributions are comparatively low (mean of 0.14) compared to Holocene soils (mean of 0.32) and riverine phytoplankton (mean of 0.55), which could be explained with the restricted spatial distribution of Ice Complex deposits within the Lena catchment. Based on our newly calculated soil-derived POM ∆14C values, we propose an isotopic range for the riverine soil-derived POM end-member with ∆14C of –495 ± 153‰ deduced from our δ13C-based binary mixing model and δ13C of –26.6 ± 1‰ deduced from our data of Lena Delta soils and literature values. These estimates can help to improve the dual-carbon-isotope simulations used to quantify contributions from riverine soil POM, Pleistocene ice complex POM from coastal erosion, and marine POM in Siberian shelf sediments.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.5194/bg-12-3769-2015

Cite as
Winterfeld, M. , Laepple, T. and Mollenhauer, G. (2015): Characterization of particulate organic matter in the Lena River delta and adjacent nearshore zone, NE Siberia – Part I: Radiocarbon inventories , Biogeosciences, 12 (12), pp. 3769-3788 . doi: 10.5194/bg-12-3769-2015



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