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Measuring rates of gross photosynthesis and net community production in cryoconite holes: a comparison of field methods

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Photosynthesis by microbes on the surfaces of glaciers and ice sheets has the potential to fix carbon, alter the albedo of ice surfaces via the production of organic matter and so enhance ice melt. It could also be important for supplying labile organic matter and nutrients to in situ and downstream ecosystems. This study compares in situ 24 hour incubation methods for measuring rates of gross photosynthesis, respiration and net community production (NCP) in cryoconite holes on three Svalbard valley glaciers. Rates of gross photosynthesis and respiration measured by the ΔCO2 method were closely balanced, resulting in rates of NCP close to the detection limit (mean of –1.3 μg C g–1 d–1) consistent with previous measurements in Arctic cryoconite holes. This suggests that organic matter within cryoconite holes may be derived largely from allochthonous sources. The molar ratio of ΔO2 to ΔCO2 in incubations gave mean respiratory and photosynthetic quotients of 0.80 ± 0.17 (1 × SD) and 1.24 ± 0.20 (1 × SD), respectively. The 14C method typically underestimated rates of gross photosynthesis (ΔCO2 method) by more than one order of magnitude and measured a rate closer to NCP.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2010

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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.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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