Journal article Open Access

Multi-year particle fluxes in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard

D'Angelo, Alessandra; Giglio, Federico; Miserocchi, Stefano; Sanchez-Vidal, Anna; Aliani, Stefano; Tesi, Tommaso; Viola, Angelo; Mazzola, Mauro; Langone, Leonardo

Abstract. High-latitude regions are warming faster than other areas due to reduction of snow cover and sea ice loss and changes in atmospheric and ocean circulation. The combination of these processes, collectively known as polar amplification, provides an extraordinary opportunity to document the ongoing thermal destabilisation of the terrestrial cryosphere and the release of land-derived material into the aquatic environment. This study presents a 6-year time series (2010–2016) of physical parameters and particle fluxes collected by an oceanographic mooring in Kongsfjorden (Spitsbergen, Svalbard). In recent decades, Kongsfjorden has been experiencing rapid loss of sea ice coverage and retreat of local glaciers as a result of the progressive increase in ocean and air temperatures. The overarching goal of this study was to continuously monitor the inner fjord particle sinking and to understand to what extent the temporal evolution of particulate fluxes was linked to the progressive changes in both Atlantic and freshwater input. Our data show high peaks of settling particles during warm seasons, in terms of both organic and inorganic matter. The different sources of suspended particles were described as a mixing of glacier carbonate, glacier siliciclastic and autochthonous marine input. The glacier releasing sediments into the fjord was the predominant source, while the sediment input by rivers was reduced at the mooring site. Our time series showed that the seasonal sunlight exerted first-order control on the particulate fluxes in the inner fjord. The marine fraction peaked when the solar radiation was at a maximum in May–June while the land-derived fluxes exhibited a 1–2-month lag consistent with the maximum air temperature and glacier melting. The inter-annual time-weighted total mass fluxes varied by 2 orders of magnitude over time, with relatively higher values in 2011, 2013, and 2015. Our results suggest that the land-derived input will remarkably increase over time in a warming scenario. Further studies are therefore needed to understand the future response of the Kongsfjorden ecosystem alterations with respect to the enhanced release of glacier-derived material.

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