Linking permafrost thaw to shifting biogeochemistry and food web resources in an arctic river

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TitleLinking permafrost thaw to shifting biogeochemistry and food web resources in an arctic river
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsKendrick, MR, Huryn, AD, Bowden, WB, Deegan, LA, Findlay, RH, Hershey, AE, Peterson, BJ, Benes, J, Schuett, EB
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Date Published09/2018

Rapidly increasing air temperatures across the Arctic are thawing permafrost and exposing vast quantities of organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus to microbial processing. Shifts in the absolute and relative supplies of these elements will likely alter patterns of ecosystem productivity and change the way carbon and nutrients are delivered from upland areas to surface waters such as rivers and lakes. The ultra‐oligotrophic nature of surface waters across the Arctic renders these ecosystems particularly susceptible to changes in productivity and food web dynamics as permafrost thaw alters terrestrial‐aquatic linkages. The objectives of this study were to evaluate decadal‐scale patterns in surface water chemistry and assess potential implications of changing water chemistry to benthic organic matter and aquatic food webs. Data were collected from the upper Kuparuk River on the North Slope of Alaska by the U.S. National Science Foundation Long‐Term Ecological Research (LTER) program during 1978‐2014. Analyses of these data show increases in stream water alkalinity and cation concentrations consistent with signatures of permafrost thaw. Changes are also documented for discharge‐corrected nitrate concentrations (+), discharge‐corrected DOC concentrations (‐), total phosphorus concentrations (‐), and δ13C isotope values of aquatic invertebrate consumers (‐). These changes show that warming temperatures and thawing permafrost in the upland environment are leading to shifts in the supply of carbon and nutrients available to surface waters and consequently changing resources that support aquatic food webs. This demonstrates that physical, geochemical, and biological changes associated with warming permafrost are fundamentally altering linkages between upland and aquatic ecosystems in rapidly changing arctic environments.

Short TitleGlob Change Biol