Is Oxygenation Related to the Decomposition of Organic Matter in Cryoconite Holes?

Jakub Buda*, Ewa Poniecka, Piotr Rozwalak, Roberto Ambrosini, Elizabeth A. Bagshaw, Andrea Franzetti, Piotr Klimaszyk, Adam Nawrot, Mirosława Pietryka, Dorota Richter, Krzysztof Zawierucha

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Cryoconite is a sediment occurring on glacier surfaces worldwide which reduces ice albedo and concentrates glacier surface meltwater into small reservoirs called cryoconite holes. It consists of mineral and biogenic matter, including active microorganisms. This study presents an experimental insight into the influence of sediment oxygenation on the cryoconite ability to produce and decomposition of organic matter. Samples were collected from five glaciers in the Arctic and the European mainland. Cryoconite from three glaciers was incubated in stagnant and mechanically mixed conditions to imitate inter-hole water–sediment mixing by meltwater occurring on glaciers in Northern Hemisphere, and its effect on oxygen profiles and organic matter content. Moreover, we investigated short-term changes of oxygen conditions in cryoconite from four glaciers in illuminated and dark conditions. An anaerobic zone was present or approaching zero oxygen in all illuminated cryoconite samples, varying in depth depending on the origin of cryoconite: from 1500 µm from Steindalsbreen (Scandinavian Peninsula) and Forni Glacier (The Alps) to 3100 µm from Russell Glacier and Longyearbreen (Arctic) after incubation. Organic matter content varied between glaciers from 6.11% on Longyearbreen to 16.36% on Russell Glacier. The mixed sediment from the Forni Glacier had less organic matter than stagnant, the sediment from Longyearbreen followed this trend, but the difference was not statistically significant, while the sediment from Ebenferner did not differ between groups. Our results have implications for the understanding of biogeochemical processes on glacier surfaces, the adaptation of organisms to changing physical conditions due to abrupt sediment mixing, but also on the estimation of productivity of supraglacial systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1510–1521
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2021


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