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

Lena River biogeochemistry resolved by a high frequency monitoring: comparing a wet and a dry year

Bennet Juhls, Anne Morgenstern, and Pier Paul Overduin
Bennet Juhls et al.
  • Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Permafrost Section Potsdam, Germany (

River biogeochemistry at any location integrates environmental processes over a definable upstream area of the river watershed. Therefore, biogeochemical parameters of river water are powerful indicators of the climate change impact on the entire watershed and smaller parts of it.

The current warming of the Siberian Arctic is changing atmospheric forcing, precipitation, subsurface water storage, and runoff from rivers to the Arctic Ocean. A number of studies predict an increase of organic carbon export by rivers into the Arctic Ocean with further warming of the Arctic. Major potential drivers for this increase are the rise of river discharge and permafrost thaw, which mobilizes organic matter.

Here, we present results of high frequency monitoring program of the Lena River waters in the central part of its delta at the Laptev Sea. For the first time, a number of biogeochemical parameters such as dissolved organic carbon (DOC), coloured dissolved organic matter, electrical conductivity, temperature, and d18O isotopes were measured at an interval of every few days throughout the entire season. Currently, the data set comprises two complete years from the spring 2018 until the spring 2020, which were characterized by extremely high and low summer discharges, respectively. While 2018 to 2019 was the fourth highest on record from 1936 to present, resulting in an annual DOC flux of 6.8 Tg C yr-1, 2019 was the sixth lowest discharge year with a significantly lower DOC flux of 4.5 Tg C yr-1. Endmember analysis using electrical conductivity and d18O isotopes showed that rainwater transported less DOC in 2019 (1.5 Tg C) than in 2018 (2.9 Tg C) although the winter base flow and the snow and ice meltwater transported similar amounts.

The biogeochemical response of the Lena River water provides us with new insights into the catchment processes, including permafrost thaw and potential mobilization of previously frozen organic carbon. Our new monitoring program will serve 1) as a baseline to measure future changes and 2) as a training dataset to project changes under future climate scenarios.

How to cite: Juhls, B., Morgenstern, A., and Overduin, P. P.: Lena River biogeochemistry resolved by a high frequency monitoring: comparing a wet and a dry year, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14501,, 2021.


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