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Microbially-driven export of labile organic carbon from the Greenland Ice Sheet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360–365
Number of pages7
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number5
Early online date3 Apr 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 21 Feb 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 3 Apr 2017
DatePublished (current) - May 2017


Glaciers and ice sheets are significant sources of dissolved organic carbon and nutrients to downstream subglacial and marine ecosystems. Climatically-driven increases in glacial runoff are expected to intensify the impact of exported nutrients on local and regional downstream environments. However, the origin and bioreactivity of dissolved organic carbon from glacier surfaces are not fully understood. Here, we present data comprising of simultaneous measurements of gross primary production, community respiration, dissolved organic carbon composition and export from different surface habitats of the Greenland Ice Sheet, throughout the ablation season. We found that microbial production was significantly correlated with the concentration of labile dissolved organic species in glacier surface meltwater (Pearson correlation p<0.001). Further, we determined that freely-available organic compounds made up 62% of the dissolved organic carbon exported from the glacier surface through streams. We therefore conclude that microbial communities were the primary driver for labile dissolved organic carbon production and recycling on glacier surfaces (up to 1.12 ± 0.14 mg C L−1d−1 carbon production), and that glacier dissolved organic carbon export is dependent on active microbial processes during the melt season.

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