Temporal and spatial variability of stream water chemistry on Subantarctic Marion Island

  • M.-J. Stowe Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
  • David William Hedding Department of Geography, University of South Africa, Florida, South Africa
  • Frank D. Eckardt Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
  • Werner Nel Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa
Keywords: Major ions, hydrochemistry, time series, freshwater, sea salts


Concentrations of major ions in stream water from the Soft Plume River on Subantarctic Marion Island were measured. During the annual relief voyage, samples were collected daily over a 16-day period (21 April–6 May 2015) from three sites along the stream to better understand temporal and spatial variability of stream water chemistry on the island. The chemical composition of the stream is dominated by the sea salts Na+ and Cl. Mean solute concentrations for Na+ and Cl are 7 ± 0.58 and 12.5 ± 0.84 mg/L, respectively. The mean molar Na:Cl ratio for all samples is 0.86 ± 0.05, with a range from 0.71 to 0.99 (n = 47), and there is a strong, significant positive correlation between Na+ and Cl concentrations (r = 0.80; p < 0.001). These values are consistent with previous studies from Marion Island and other Subantarctic islands. Temporal variation in ion concentrations was small. The largest detected change was a decrease in most solute concentrations that coincided with two precipitation events. This decrease was largest at the highest altitude and the shallowest site, suggesting that there was more rainfall at this location. These findings confirm the dominance of the surrounding ocean as the main source of the island’s stream water chemistry and illustrate spatiotemporal patterns that provide an insight into mechanisms affecting their composition on Subantarctic Marion Island.


Download data is not yet available.


Ansorge I., Skelton P., Bekker A., de Bruyn P.J.N., Butterworth D., Cilliers P., Cooper J., Cowan D.A., Dorrington R., Fawcett S., Fietz S., Findlay K.P., Froneman P.W., Grantham G.H., Greve M., Hedding D.W., Hofmeyr G.J.G, Kosch M., Le Roux P.C., Lucas M., MacHutchon K., Meiklejohn K.I., Nel W., Pistorius P., Ryan P.G., Stander J., Swart S., Treasure A., Vichi M. & Jansen van Vuuren B. 2017. Exploring South Africa’s southern frontier: a 20-year vision for polar research through the South African National Antarctic Programme. South African Journal of Science 113, a0205, doi: 10.17159/sajs.2017/a0205.

Blake B.J. 1996. Microclimate and prediction of photosynthesis at Marion Island. MSc dissertation, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein.

Boelhouwers J., Holness S. & Sumner P. 2003. The maritime Subantarctic: a distinct periglacial environment. Geomorphology 52, 39–55, doi: 10.1016/S0169-555X(02)00247-7.

Buckney R.T. & Tyler P.A. 1974. Reconnaissance limnology of sub-Antarctic islands. II. Additional features of the chemistry of Macquarie Island lakes and tarns. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 25, 89–95.

Caulkett A.P. & Ellis-Evans J.C. 1997. Chemistry of streams of Signy Island, maritime Antarctic: sources of major ions. Antarctic Science 9, 3–11, doi: 10.1017/S0954102097000023.

Clarke F.W. 1924. The data of geochemistry. United States Geological Survey Bulletin 770. 5th edn. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Dartnall H.J. & Smith V.R. 2012. Freshwater invertebrates of sub-Antarctic Marion Island. African Zoology 47, 203–215, doi: 10.1080/15627020.2012.11407548.

Freire P., Andrade C., Coutinho R. & Cruz J.V. 2013. Fluvial geochemistry in Sã;o Miguel Island (Azores, Portugal): source and fluxes of inorganic solutes in an active volcanic environment. Science of the Total Environment 454/455, 154–169, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.02.090.

Gaillardet J., Dupré B. & Allègre C.J. 1999. Geochemistry of large river suspended sediments: silicate weathering or recycling tracer? Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 63, 4037–4051, doi: 10.1016/S0016-7037(99)00307-5.

Gibbs R.J. 1970. Mechanisms controlling world water chemistry. Science 170, 1088–1091, doi: 10.1126/science.170.3962.1088.

Gorham E. & Cragg J.B. 1960. The chemical composition of some bog waters from the Falkland Islands. Journal of Ecology 48, 175–181, doi: 10.2307/2257316.

Gremmen N.J.M. 1981. The vegetation of the Subantarctic islands Marion and Prince Edward Geobotany 3. The Hague: Dr W. Junk Publishers.

Gremmen N.J.M. & Smith V.R. 2008. Terrestrial vegetation and dynamics. In S.L. Chown & P.W. Froneman (eds.): The Prince Edward Islands: land–sea interactions in a changing ecosystem. Pp. 215–244. Stellenbosch: Sun Press.

Grobbelaar J.U. 1974. A contribution to the limnology of the sub-Antarctic island Marion. PhD thesis, University of the Orange Free State, Bloemfontein.

Grobbelaar J.U. 1975. The lentic and lotic freshwater types of Marion Island (sub-Antarctic): a limnological study. Verhandlungen Internationale Vereinigung Limnologie 19, 949–951, doi: 10.1080/03680770.1974.11896202.

Grobbelaar J.U. 1978a. Mechanisms controlling the composition of fresh waters on the sub-Antarctic island Marion. Archiv für Hydrobiologie 83, 145–157.

Grobbelaar J.U. 1978b. Factors limiting the algal growth on the sub-Antarctic island Marion. Verhandlungen Internationale Vereinigung für Limnologie 20, 1159–1164, doi: 10.1080/03680770.1977.11896666.

Hedding D.W. 2008. Spatial inventory of landforms in the recently exposed central highland of sub-Antarctic Marion Island. South African Geographical Journal 90, 11–21, doi: 10.1080/03736245.2008.9725307.

Hedding D.W. & Greve M. 2018. Decreases in precipitation on sub-Antarctic Marion Island: implications for ecological and geomorphological processes. Weather 73, article no. 203, doi: 10.1002/wea.3245.

Hedding D.W., Nel W. & Anderson R.L. 2015. Aeolian processes and landforms in the sub-Antarctic: preliminary observations from Marion Island. Polar Research 34, article no. 26365, doi: 10.3402/polar.v34.26365.

Hodson A., Heaton T., Langford H. & Newsham K. 2010. Chemical weathering and solute export by meltwater in a maritime Antarctic glacier basin. Biogeochemistry 98, 9–27, doi: 10.1007/s10533-009-9372-2.

Holloway J.M. & Dahlgren R.A. 2001. Seasonal and event-scale variations in solute chemistry for four Sierra Nevada catchments. Journal of Hydrology 250, 106–121, doi: 10.1016/S0022-1694(01)00424-3.

Kennish M.J. 1989. Practical handbook of marine science. Section 2. Chemical oceanography. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Kirchner J.W., Feng X., Neal C. & Robson A.J. 2004. The fine structure of water-quality dynamics: the (high-frequency) wave of the future. Hydrological Processes 18, 1353–1359, doi: 10.1002/hyp.5537.

Le Roux P.C. 2008. Climate and climate change. In S.L. Chown & P.W. Froneman (eds.): The Prince Edward Islands: land–sea interactions in a changing ecosystem. Pp. 39–64. Stellenbosch: Sun Press.

Le Roux P.C. & McGeoch M.A. 2008. Changes in climate extremes, variability and signature on sub-Antarctic Marion Island. Climatic Change 86, 309–329, doi: 10.1007/s10584-007-9259-y.

Lee H.-J., Chun K-W., Shope C.L. & Park J.-H. 2015. Multiple time-scale monitoring to address dynamic seasonality and storm pulses of stream water quality in mountainous watersheds. Water 7, 6117–6138, doi: 10.3390/w7116117.

Likens G.E., Keene W.C., Miller J.M. & Galloway J.N. 1987. Chemistry of precipitation from a remote, terrestrial site in Australia. Journal of Geophysical Research—Atmospheres 92, 13299–13314, doi: 10.1029/JD092iD11p13299.

Lutjeharms J.R.E. & Ansorge I.J. 2008. Oceanographic setting of the Prince Edward Islands. In S.L. Chown & P.W. Froneman (eds.): The Prince Edward Islands: land–sea interactions in a changing ecosystem. Pp. 17–38. Stellenbosch: Sun Press.

Lyons W.B., Welch K.A., Welch S.A., Camacho A., Rochera C., Michaud L., Dewit R. & Carey A.E. 2013. Geochemistry of streams from Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island. Antarctic Science 25, 181–190, doi: 10.1017/S0954102012000776.

McDougall I.A.N., Verwored W. & Chevallier L.U.C. 2001. K–Ar geochronology of Marion Island, Southern Ocean. Geological Magazine 138, 1–17, doi: 10.1017/S0016756801005039.

McNeil V.H., Cox M.E. & Preda M. 2005. Assessment of chemical water types and their spatial variation using multi-stage cluster analysis, Queensland, Australia. Journal of Hydrology 310, 181–200, doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2004.12.014.

Meurk C.D., Foggo M.N., Thomson B.M., Bathurst E.T.J. & Crompton M.B. 1994. Ion-rich precipitation and vegetation pattern on Subantarctic Campbell Island. Artic and Alpine Research 23, 281–289, doi: 10.1080/00040851.1994.12003067.

Neal C. & Kirchner J.W. 2000. Sodium and chloride levels in rainfall, mist, streamwater and groundwater at the Plynlimon catchments, mid-Wales: inferences on hydrological and chemical controls. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions 4, 295–310.

Neal C., Reynolds B., Rowland P., Norris D., Kirchner J.W., Neal M., Sleep D., Lawlor A., Woods C., Thacker S. & Guyatt H. 2012. High-frequency water quality time series in precipitation and streamflow: from fragmentary signals to scientific challenge. Science of the Total Environment 434, 3–12, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.10.072.

Nędzarek A., Tórz A. & Podlasińska J. 2015. Ionic composition of terrestrial surface waters in maritime Antarctic and the processes involved in formation. Antarctic Science 27, 150–161, doi: 10.1017/S0954102014000522.

Nel W. 2012. A preliminary synoptic assessment of soil frost on Marion Island and the possible consequences of climate change in a maritime sub-Antarctic environment. Polar Research 31, article no. 17626, doi: 10.3402/polar.v31i0.17626.

Nel W., Boelhouwers J.C. & Zilindile M.B. 2009. The effect of synoptic scale weather systems on sub-surface soil temperatures in a diurnal frost environment: preliminary observations from sub-Antarctic Marion Island. Geografiska Annaler Series A 91, 313–319, doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0459.2009.00372.x.

R Development Core Team 2016. R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.

Rouault M., Melice J.-L., Reason C.J.C. & Lutjeharms J.R.E. 2005. Climate variability at Marion Island, Southern Ocean, since 1960. Journal of Geophysical Research—Oceans 110, c05007, doi: 10.1029/2004JC002492.

Schulze B.R. 1971. The climate of Marion Island. In E.M. Van Zinderen Bakker et al. (eds.): Marion and Prince Edward Islands. Report on the South African biological and geological expedition 1965–1966. Pp. 16–31. Cape Town: A.A. Balkema.

Smith V.R. 1987. Chemical composition of precipitation at Marion Island (sub-Antarctic). Atmospheric Environment 21, 1159–1165, doi: 10.1016/0004-6981(87)90243-5.

Smith V.R. 2008. Terrestrial and freshwater primary production and nutrient cycling. In S.L. Chown & P.W. Froneman (eds.): The Prince Edward Islands: land–sea interactions in a changing ecosystem. Pp. 181–214. Stellenbosch: Sun Press.

Smith V.R. & Froneman W.P. 2008. Nutrient dynamics in the vicinity of the Prince Edward Islands. In S.L. Chown & P.W. Froneman (eds.): The Prince Edward Islands: land–sea interactions in a changing ecosystem. Pp. 165–179. Stellenbosch: Sun Press.

Soulsby C. 1995. Influence of sea salt on stream water chemistry in an upland afforested catchment. Hydrological Processes 9, 183–196, doi: 10.1002/hyp.3360090205.

Stein A.F., Draxler R.R., Rolph G.D., Stunder B.J., Cohen M.D. & Ngan F. 2015. NOAA’s HYSPLIT atmospheric transport and dispersion modeling system. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 96, 2059–2077, doi: 10.1175/BAMS-D-14-00110.1.

Stowe M.-J., Harris C.J.C., Hedding D.W., Eckardt F. & Nel W. 2018. Hydrogen and oxygen isotope composition of precipitation and stream water on sub-Antarctic Marion Island. Antarctic Science 30, 83–92, doi: 10.1017/S0954102017000475.

Taylor F.J. 1974. Chemical analyses of Campbell Island fresh waters. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 8, 389–402, doi: 10.1080/00288330.1974.9515513.

Tomlinson M.S. & De Carlo E.H. 2003. The need for high resolution time series data to characterize Hawaiian Streams. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 39, 113–123, doi: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2003.tb01565.x.

Toro M., Camacho A., Rochera C., Rico E., Bañón M., Fernández-Valiente E., Marco E., Justel A., Avendaño M.C., Ariosa Y. & Vincent W.F. 2007. Limnological characteristics of the freshwater ecosystems of Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island, in maritime Antarctica. Polar Biology 30, 635–649, doi: 10.1007/s00300-006-0223-5.

Tyler P.A. 1972. Reconnaissance limnology of sub-Antarctic Islands. I. Chemistry of lake waters from Macquarie Island and the Iles Kerguelen. Internationale Revue der gesamten Hydrobiologie und Hydrographie 57, 759–778, doi: 10.1002/iroh.19720570505.

Tyson P.D. & Preston-Whyte R.A. 2000. The weather and climate of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

Van Staden W. 2011. Limnoecology of the freshwater algal genera (excluding diatoms) on Marion Island (sub–Antarctic). MSc dissertation, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Vinocur A. & Unrein F. 2000. Typology of lentic water bodies at Potter Peninsula (King George Island, Antarctica) based on physical-chemical characteristics and phytoplankton communities. Polar Biology 23, 858–870, doi: 10.1007/s003000000165.

Vowinckel E. 1954. Synotische Klimotologie vom gebiet Marion Island. (Synoptic climatology of the Marion Island area.) Notos 3, 12–21.

Welch K.A., Lyons W.B., Whisner C., Gardner C.B., Gooseff M.N., McKnight D.M. & Priscu J.M. 2010. Spatial variations in the geochemistry of glacial meltwater streams in the Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Antarctic Science 22, 662–672, doi: 10.1017/S0954102010000702.
How to Cite
Stowe, M.-J., Hedding, D. W., Eckardt, F. D., & Nel, W. (2019). Temporal and spatial variability of stream water chemistry on Subantarctic Marion Island. Polar Research, 38. https://doi.org/10.33265/polar.v38.3356
Research Articles