Title

The carbon stable isotope biogeochemistry of streams, Taylor Valley, Antarctica

Abstract

The McMurdo Dry Valleys region of Antarctica is the largest ice-free region on the continent. This study reports the first C stable isotope measurements for dissolved inorganic C present in ephemeral streams in four dry valleys that flow for four to twelve weeks during the austral summer. One of these valleys, Taylor Valley, has been the focus of the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research (MCM-LTER) program since 1993. Within Taylor Valley, numerous ephemeral streams deliver water to three perennially ice-covered, closed-basin lakes: Lake Fryxell, Lake Hoare, and Lake Bonney. The Onyx River in the Wright Valley, the longest river in Antarctica, flows for 40km from the Wright Lower Glacier and Lake Brownworth at the foot of the glacier to Lake Vanda. Streamflow in the McMurdo Dry Valley streams is produced primarily from glacial melt, as there is no overland flow. However, hyporheic zone exchange can be a major hydrogeochemical process in these streams. Depending on landscape position, these streams vary in gradient, channel substrate, biomass abundance, and hyporheic zone extent. This study sampled streams from Taylor, Wright, Garwood, and Miers Valleys and conducted diurnal sampling of two streams of different character in Taylor Valley. In addition, transect sampling was undertaken of the Onyx River in Wright Valley. The δ13CPDB values from these streams span a range of greater than 14‰, from -9.4‰ to +5.1‰, with the majority of samples falling between -3‰ and +2‰, suggesting that the C stable isotope composition of dissolved C in McMurdo Dry Valley streams is largely inorganic in character. Because there are no vascular plants on this landscape and no groundwater input to these streams, atmospheric exchange is the dominant control on δ13C-DIC. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Publication Title

Applied Geochemistry

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