Particulate organic and dissolved inorganic carbon stable isotopic compositions in Taylor Valley lakes, Antarctica: The effect of legacy

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In perennially ice-covered lakes of Taylor Valley, Antarctica, "legacy", a carryover of past ecosystem events, has primarily been discussed in terms of nutrient and salinity concentrations and its effect on the current ecology of the lakes. In this study, we determine how residual pools of ancient carbon affect the modern carbon abundance and character in the water columns of Lakes Fryxell, Hoare, and Bonney. We measure the stable carbon isotopic compositions and concentrations of particulate organic carbon (POC) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in the water column of these lakes over four seasons (1999-2002). These data are presented and compared with all the previously published Taylor Valley lacustrine carbon stable isotopic data. Our results show that the carbon concentrations and isotopic compositions of the upper water columns of those lakes are controlled by modern processes, while the lower water columns are controlled to varying degrees by inherited carbon pools. The water column of the west lobe of Lake Bonney is dominated by exceptionally high concentrations of DIC (55,000-75,000 μmol l-1) reflecting the long period of ice-cover on this lake. The east lobe of Lake Bonney has highly enriched δ13CDIC values resulting from paleobrine evaporation effects in its bottom waters, while its high DIC concentrations provide geochemical evidence that its middle depth waters are derived from West Lake Bonney during a hydrologically connected past. Although ancient carbon is present in both Lake Hoare and Lake Fryxell, the δ13CDIC values in bottom waters suggest dominance by modern primary productivity-related processes. Anaerobic methanogenesis and methanotrophy are also taking place in the lower water column of Lake Fryxell with enough methane, oxidized anaerobically, to contribute to the DIC pool. We also show how stream proximity and high flood years are only a minor influence on the carbon isotopic values of both POC and DIC. The Taylor Valley lake system is remarkably stable in both inter-lake and intra-lake carbon dynamics. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009.

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