Elemental Cycling in a Flow-Through Lake in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica: Lake Miers

TitleElemental Cycling in a Flow-Through Lake in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica: Lake Miers
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsFair, ACorinne, W. Lyons, B
Secondary AuthorsCarey, AE, Chin, Y-P
Academic DepartmentEarth Sciences
DegreeMaster Thesis
Number of Pages122
Date Published06/2014
UniversityOhio State University
Thesis Typemasters

The ice-free area in Antarctica known as the McMurdo Dry Valleys has been monitored biologically, meteorologically, hydrologically, and geochemically continuously since the onset of the MCM-LTER in 1993. This area contains a functioning ecosystem living in an extremely delicate environment. Only a few degrees of difference in air temperature can effect on the hydrologic system, making it a prime area to study ongoing climate change. The unique hydrology of Lake Miers, i.e. its flowthrough nature, makes it an ideal candidate to study the mass balance of a McMurdo Dry Valley lake because both input and output concentrations can be analyzed. This study seeks to understand the physical and geochemical hydrology of Lake Miers relative to other MCMDV lakes. Samples were collected from the two inflowing streams, the outflowing stream, and the lake itself at 11 depths to analyze a suite of major cations (Li+ , Na+ , K+ , Mg+ , Ca2+), major anions (Cl- , Br- , F- , SO4 2- , ΣCO2), nutrients (NO2 - , NO3 - , NH4 + , PO4 3- , Si), trace elements (Mo, Rb, Sr, Ba, U, V, Cu, As), water isotopes (δD, δ 18O), and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). The lake acts as a sink for all constituents analyzed, but by amounts varying from ~10% (DOC, NH4 + , and NO2 - ) to PO4 3- at nearly 100%, indicating this lake may be P-limited. Cl- , a typically conservative element, was only 79% retained, which could be due to the late season sample collection, hyperheic zone influences, or other factors. The hyperheic zone’s role in lake and stream iii geochemistry was analyzed with a 24-hour sampling event. The positive relationships between stream flow and solute concentrations indicate that the delta in Miers Valley plays a role in controlling stream geochemistry and future work could help to explain this relationship. Lake depth profiles of trace elements U, V, Cu, and As decrease relative to Cl in the deepest part of the lake, while non-reducing trace elements show increases with depth. SO4 2- and dissolved O2 lake depth profiles decrease from 53 μM and 22.3 mg/L to 18 μM and 1.8 mg/L, respectively, at depth, indicating that the lake bottom is under reducing and near anoxic conditions. Lake depth profiles show that, while the “biological pump” may be a factor controlling lake chemistry, it is masked by the stronger signal of diffusion from the lake bottom sediments and requires future work to understand fully. The “age” of Lake Miers was calculated with a diffusion model to be 84 years, which agrees with other estimates of 100-300 years. The diffusion of solutes from the lake bottom and the redox conditions at depth are two major processes controlling the geochemistry of Lake Miers, and future work can help determine their extent and relationship with other processes.