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The carbon isotopic composition of dissolved inorganic carbon in perennially ice-covered Antarctic lakes: searching for a biogenic signature

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The stable-isotopic signature of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) has been routinely used in temperate lake systems to investigate the biogeochemical dynamics of carbon. We studied seven perennially ice-covered lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, to ascertain how carbon cycling affects the 13C of DIC in water columns of these systems. Unlike temperate lakes and, in fact, most polar lake systems, the permanent ice covers of these lakes eliminate physical mixing (turnover) and hence redistribution of DIC in the lakes, as well as minimize CO2 exchange with the atmosphere. These important and unique physical constraints have significant impact on carbon dynamics in the lakes, and important consequences for the 13C distribution. The geochemistry in these lakes is influenced in varying amounts by landscape position, hydrologic input and their evolutionary history. Five of these lakes (both lobes of Lake Bonney, and Lakes Fryxell, Miers and Vanda) have surface water 13C ratios of 0–4‰, Lake Hoare has more negative values, while Lake Joyce, the highest-elevation lake, has a much higher value (10.5‰). All of the lakes have upper- to mid-depth 13C maxima reflecting biological uptake of 12C. Only four of the lakes (Lakes Vanda, Joyce, Hoare and Fryxell) have deep waters with negative values of 13C, implying rigorous remineralization of 12C at depth. Lake Miers, the only lake that is not closed basin, has the smallest 13C variation with depth, indicating that hydrologic exchange greatly influences the 13C signal.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-06-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

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