Characterizing Uncertainty in Pan-Arctic Land-Ocean Dissolved Organic Carbon Flux:\ Insights from the Onega River, Russia

Starr Sommer, Johnston Sarah Ellen, Sobolev Nikita, Perminova Irina, Kellerman Anne, Fiske Greg, Bulygina Ekaterina, Shiklomanov Alexander, McKenna Amy, Spencer Robert G.M.

Journal of Geophysical Research:\ Biogeosciences, 2023, , doi: 10.1029/2022jg007073


Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) flux from rivers in the pan-Arctic watershed represents an important connection between major terrestrial carbon stocks and the Arctic Ocean. Previous estimates of Arctic carbon flux and dissolved organic matter (DOM) seasonal dynamics have relied predominantly on measurements from the six major Arctic rivers, yet these may not be representative of northern high-latitude constrained smaller watersheds. Here, we evaluate DOC concentration and DOM composition in the Onega River, a small Arctic watershed, using optical measurements and ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry. Compared to the six largest Arctic rivers, DOC, absorbance at a350, and indicators of terrestrial DOM (e.g. SUVA254, modified aromaticity index, relative abundance of condensed aromatics and polyphenolics) were elevated in the Onega throughout the year. Seasonality was also generally muted in comparison to the major Arctic rivers with relatively elevated DOC and terrestrial markers in both spring and fall seasons. The Onega exhibits a strong relationship between a350 and DOC, and its organic-rich nature is apparent in its high DOC yield (4.85 g m2yr-1), and higher CDOM per unit DOC than the six largest Arctic rivers. As DOC yield from the Onega may be more representative of smaller northern high-latitude rivers, we derived a new pan-Arctic DOC flux scaling estimate which is over 50% higher than previous estimates scaled solely from the six major Arctic rivers. These observations suggest that smaller northern high-latitude rivers may be underrepresented in Arctic carbon flux models and highlights uncertainty around constraining the export of DOC to the Arctic Ocean.