Silicon isotopic composition of dry and wet-based glaciers in Antarctica

Susann.Henkel [ at ]


Glaciers and ice sheets export significant amounts of silicon (Si) to downstream ecosystems, impacting local and potentially global biogeochemical cycles. Recent studies have shown Si in Arctic glacial meltwaters to have an isotopically distinct signature when compared to non-glacial rivers. This is likely linked to subglacial weathering processes and mechanochemical reactions. However, there are currently no silicon isotope (d30Si) data available from meltwater streams in Antarctica, limiting the current inferences on global glacial silicon isotopic composition and its drivers. To address this gap, we present dissolved silicon (DSi), d30SiDSi, and major ion data from meltwater streams draining a polythermal glacier in the region of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP; King George Island) and a cold-based glacier in East Antarctica [Commonwealth Stream, McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV)]. These data, alongside other global datasets, improve our understanding of how contrasting glacier thermal regime can impact upon Si cycling and therefore the d30SiDSi composition. We find a similar d30SiDSi composition between the two sites, with the streams on King George Island varying between -0.23 and C1.23h and the Commonwealth stream varying from -0.40 to C1.14h. However, meltwater streams in King George Island have higher DSi concentrations, and the two glacial systems exhibit opposite DSi–d30SiDSi trends. These contrasts likely result from differences in weathering processes, specifically the role of subglacial processes (King George Island) and, supraglacial processes followed by instream weathering in hyporheic zones (Commonwealth Stream). These findings are important when considering likely changes in nutrient fluxes from Antarctic glaciers under climatic warming scenarios and consequent shifts in glacial thermal regimes.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.3389/feart.2020.00286

Cite as
Hatton, J. E. , Hendry, K. R. , Hirst, C. , Opfergelt, S. , Henkel, S. , Silva-Busso, A. , Welch, S. A. , Wadham, J. L. , Lyons, W. B. , Bagshaw, E. , Staubwasser, M. and McKnight, D. (2020): Silicon isotopic composition of dry and wet-based glaciers in Antarctica , Frontiers in Earth Sciences, 8 (286) . doi: 10.3389/feart.2020.00286

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Geographical region

Research Platforms


Funded by

Edit Item Edit Item