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Degradation of terrestrial organic carbon, primary production and out-gassing of CO2 in the Laptev and East Siberian Seas as inferred from delta C-13 values of DIC

Journal article
Authors V. Alling
D. Porcelli
C. M. Morth
Leif G Anderson
L. Sanchez-Garcia
O. Gustafsson
P. S. Andersson
C. Humborg
Published in Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta
Volume 95
Pages 143-159
ISSN 0016-7037
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Pages 143-159
Language en
Keywords arctic-ocean, isotope fractionation, marine-phytoplankton, chemistry, dynamics, river-runoff, water, biogeochemistry, shelf, c-13, ecosystem
Subject categories Biological Sciences


The cycling of carbon on the Arctic shelves, including outgassing of CO2 to the atmosphere, is not clearly understood. Degradation of terrestrial organic carbon (OCter) has recently been shown to be pronounced over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), i.e. the Laptev and East Siberian Seas, producing dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). To further explore the processes affecting DIC, an extensive suite of shelf water samples were collected during the summer of 2008, and assessed for the stable carbon isotopic composition of DIC (delta C-13(DIC)). The delta C-13(DIC) values varied between -7.2 parts per thousand to +1.6 parts per thousand and strongly deviated from the compositions expected from only mixing between river water and seawater. Model calculations suggest that the major processes causing these deviations from conservative mixing were addition of (DIC) by degradation of OCter, removal of DIC during primary production, and outgassing of CO2. All waters below the halocline in the ESAS had delta C-13(DIC) values that appear to reflect mixing of river water and seawater combined with additions of on average 70 +/- 20 mu M of DIC, originating from degradation of OCter in the coastal water column. This is of the same magnitude as the recently reported deficits of DOCter and POCter for the same waters. The surface waters in the East Siberian Sea had higher delta C-13(DIC) values and lower DIC concentrations than expected from conservative mixing, consistent with additions of DIC from degradation of OCter and outgassing of CO2. The outgassing of CO2 was equal to loss of 123 +/- 50 mu M DIC. Depleted delta C-13(POC) values of -29 parts per thousand to -32 parts per thousand in the mid to outer shelf regions are consistent with POC from phytoplankton production. The low delta C-13(POC) values are likely due to low delta C-13(DIC) of precursor DIC, which is due to degradation of OCter, rather than reflecting terrestrial input compositions. Overall, the delta C-13(DIC) values confirm recent suggestions of substantial degradation of OCter over the ESAS, and further show that a large part of the CO2 produced from degradation has been outgassed to the atmosphere. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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