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Nutrient and carbon export from a tidewater glacier to the coastal ocean in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

  • Author / Creator
    Williams, Patrick L
  • As glaciers melt, a range of on-, in-, and under-glacier processes modify and export freshwater and sediments to the ocean. This glacial runoff may influence biological productivity in coastal ecosystems by supplying essential nutrients and labile carbon. Previous studies of glacial meltwater export to the ocean have primarily been conducted on rivers draining land-terminating glaciers, or in fjords with large tidewater glaciers. These studies speculate about downstream effects (river studies) or upstream causes (fjord studies) of differing carbon and nutrient availability and biological productivity, but do not measure them. Here, we conduct the first ice- to-ocean study at a marine-terminating glacier in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA). We characterize the nutrient and carbon content of ice and meltwater collected on the glacier surface, at its margins, and in the near-shore coastal ocean, all within 1 to 25-km of the glacier terminus. Results demonstrate that while meltwater from a shallow tidewater glacier did not directly increase downstream carbon and nutrient concentrations, it can induce upwelling of deeper nutrient-rich marine water. Also, although carbon concentrations in meltwater were low, results show that this carbon is potentially more bioavailable than marine carbon. Glacially-mediated delivery of labile carbon and upwelling of nutrient-rich water occurs in summer, when surface waters are nutrient- limited. Collectively, these processes could benefit surface marine plankton, potentially stimulating production at the base of the food web. Shallow tidewater glaciers are commonly retreating in Arctic regions like the CAA and Svalbard, and understanding how increased meltwater output from these systems impacts marine ecosystems is critical.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-n98f-4t27
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.