From land to sea: Identifying and quantifying weathering fluxes from glaciated catchments to the ocean in the Kongsfjorden Bay

A multi-proxy geochemical approach using REE and trace metals, radiogenic, and non-traditional isotope ratios to identify element release mechanism and fluxes, provenances and the controls of the speciation of trace metals for present-day and recent past conditions by investigating meltwater and seawater as well as terrestrial and marine sediments.

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Project type

  • field work


  • cryosphere
  • geology
  • oceanography

Project Keywords

  • solid earth / geochemistry / biogeochemistry
  • solid earth / geochemistry / oxidation/reduction
  • solid earth / geochemistry / chemical weathering
  • oceans / ocean chemistry / marine geochemistry
  • solid earth / geochemistry / trace elements
  • solid earth / geochemistry / minor elements
  • oceans / ocean chemistry / ocean tracers
  • solid earth / geochemistry / biogeochemical processes
  • solid earth / geochemistry / geochemical processes
  • oceans / ocean chemistry / stable isotopes
  • oceans / ocean chemistry / suspended solids
  • oceans / ocean chemistry / trace elements
  • land surface / erosion/sedimentation / weathering

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In this project, we intend to investigate the link between land and ocean in a polar fjord system with the aim of understanding element cycling from the terrestrial source to the supply to the ocean as nutrients. Kongsfjorden provides an excellent natural field laboratory to study the response of chemical and physical weathering processes within the proglacial zone of glaciated catchments and in records of marine sediments under a changing Arctic climate. We will use a multi-proxy geochemical approach with element concentrations, including REE and trace metals, radiogenic (Nd, Hf), and non-traditional isotope ratios (B, Li, Si, Fe), to identify element release mechanism and fluxes, provenances and the controls of the speciation of (bio-essential) trace metals for present-day and recent past conditions by investigating meltwater and seawater as well as terrestrial and marine sediments. Our goal for the proposed campaign is to collect water and sediment samples from proglacial and marine environments within Kongsfjorden during the summer and prepare sample material for transport and subsequent geochemical analysis in the home laboratories. We intend to sample meltwater, suspended load, colloids and sediments in the proglacial zone along transects from land terminating glacier front to the sea in selected catchments. Within the fjord, we will take seawater and suspended load samples as well as short marine sediment cores at four stations along the fjord E-W axis. Geochemical investigations of this sample suit will provide us insights into element cycling and fluxes in a linked land-ocean system and disclose marine sediments as archives for weathering fluxes of the recent past. For this, we will collect water and sediment samples from key marine and terrestrial environments in the Kongsfjorden area. Our on-land work will focus on the proglacial zones of Austre Brøggerbreen, including sampling of Bayelva river, Vestre Lovenbreen and Kongsvegen. We will use the Marine Lab in Ny Ålesund for subsampling and sample preparation for transport. On-site lab work will include water filtration, ultrafiltration to separate colloids, determination of alkalinity by titration. We will carry out some basic in-situ measurements of temperature, conductivity, salinity and pH for the aquatic samples in the field. Sample collection in the proglacial zones will include meltwater sampling for dissolved (filtered) and suspended particulate components and short sediment cores that will be subsampled for solid-phase and fluid analyses. We will adhere to strict trace metal clean procedures in the field. Sample preparation and analysis of element and isotope compositions will subsequently be carried out at the home laboratories at AWI Bremerhaven (Germany) and Stony Brook University (USA). In home labs, we will prepare samples in clean laboratories for geochemical analysis using ICP-OES for major and minor element concentrations, IC for anion concentration, HR-ICP-MS for trace element and REE analysis and MC-ICP-MS for the analysis of radiogenic (Hf, Nd) and non-traditional isotope ratios (B, Li, Si, Fe). In addition, element and isotope ratios can be determined at high spatial resolution or for bulk samples using a femtosecond laser ablation system coupled to ICP-MS. At Stony Brook University, aqueous sulfate, chloride, nitrate, and phosphate concentrations will be analyzed using a Metrohm 930 Compact IC Flex. Dissolved trace metal concentrations will be analyzed by ICP-MS (Thermo Fisher iCAP Qc). A sequential extraction procedure will be applied on the frozen sediment samples to determine the concentrations of metals in different operationally-defined sediment fractions. Extractions will be carried out under anoxic conditions by continuous shaking. Aliquots will be taken after centrifugation. With all the new data we hope to gain a better understanding on the processes behind trace metal fluxes to the ocean in such changing environments.

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