EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Impacts of riverine terrestrial organic matter on the lower trophic levels of an Arctic shelf ecosystem

Michael Bedington1, Ricardo Torres1, Luca Polimene1, Phillip Wallhead2, Bennett Juhls3,4, Juri Palmtag5, Jens Strauss4, and Paul J. Mann5
Michael Bedington et al.
  • 1Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, UK
  • 2Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Bergen, Norway
  • 3Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 4Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam, Germany
  • 5Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

The Arctic ocean receives 11% of the entire global river discharge via several great Arctic rivers that drain vast catchments underlain with carbon-rich permafrost. Arctic marginal shelf seas are therefore heavily influenced by terrestrial dissolved organic matter (tDOM) supply, influencing coastal biogeochemical processes and food-webs, as well as physio-chemical properties (e.g. stratification or nutrient concentrations).

Whilst carbon and associated macronutrients supplied by tDOM may enhance the nutrient and carbon substrates for lower trophic levels (phytoplankton/zooplankton), promoting increased local and regional productivity, it can also have opposing effects through a series of indirect processes (e.g. increased light absorption limiting light penetration through the water column). Understanding the relative importance and timing of these processes, and how they vary spatially, is necessary to identify how land-ocean interfaces currently operate.

Future climate scenarios indicate increased quantities of riverine tDOM delivered to the near-shore, with increased freshwater runoff and greater terrestrial permafrost thaw and erosion. This is likely to be exacerbated by the disappearance of seasonal sea ice cover and increased coastal erosion rates. We can therefore expect changes in planktonic phenology and productivity, with concomitant changes in bacterial and higher trophic level success. Understanding how these factors interact and may change under future climate scenarios is therefore critical to predict the future impact on shelf sea Arctic ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide.

In the Changing Arctic Carbon cycle in the cOastal Ocean Near-shore (CACOON) project (UK-Germany collaboration) we are using coupled hydrodynamic-biogeochemical models in the extensive shallow shelf of the Laptev sea to explore the relationship between these factors. The ecosystem model ERSEM has been adapted to explicitly include a tDOM component. This coupled model system allows us to investigate both the role of present day tDOM in an Arctic coastal ecosystem and to project the potential impacts of increased tDOM input in future.

How to cite: Bedington, M., Torres, R., Polimene, L., Wallhead, P., Juhls, B., Palmtag, J., Strauss, J., and Mann, P. J.: Impacts of riverine terrestrial organic matter on the lower trophic levels of an Arctic shelf ecosystem, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12897,, 2021.

Corresponding displays formerly uploaded have been withdrawn.