The significant inputs of trace elements and rare earth elements from melting glaciers in Antarctic coastal waters
To evaluate the impact of modern glacier melting on the chemical enrichment of Antarctic coastal waters, we measured trace elements, including dissolved iron (Fe) and rare earth elements (REEs), together with dissolved inorganic nitrogen, phosphorous, silicate and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in ice, snow and coastal seawater of Marian Cove in the northernmost part of Antarctica (62°S). There was an increase in the concentrations of Fe and other trace elements (Al, Mn, Cr, Ni, Co, Pb and REEs) between the bay mouth and the glacier valleys. Good correlations between salinity and these chemical elements indicate that the trend was mainly due to the influence of glacier meltwater (GMW). When the effect of GMW was quantified based on plots of its presence (average 5.7%) in the surface water of the cove, the concentrations of trace elements in seawater increased 18-fold for Fe, eight- to 10-fold for Al and Mn and up to four-fold for Cr, Ni, Co, Pb and REEs by GMW. However, the contribution of GMW to inorganic nutrients and DOC was negligible. The significance of GMW-borne REE contribution in this cove was further evidenced by middle REE enrichment in cove water. Our results suggest that the currently increasing glacier melting in Antarctica has a significant influence on the level of trace elements, particularly Fe, in cove water, which in turn may have a significant impact on the biogeochemistry of coastal seawater in Antarctica.
Keywords: Iron; trace elements; rare earth elements; glacier melting; Antarctica; Marian Cove.
(Published: 7 May 2015)Citation: Polar Research 2015, 34, 24289, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v34.24289
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