Antarctic Science

Surface and subsurface flows of nutrients in natural and human impacted lake catchments on Broknes, Larsemann Hills, Antarctica

a1 Institute of Geology at Tallinn Technical University, Estonia Ave 7, 10143 Tallinn, Estonia
a2 School of Geography & Oceanography, ADFA, University of New South Wales, ACT 2600, Australia


This study aimed to use nutrients in lake inflows as proxies for assessing human impact and separating this from natural transformations of material in the soil active layer. Nutrients, conductivity and δ18O were monitored in surface and subsurface (using ceramic tipped piezometers) lake inflows during summer in near natural and human impacted catchments. The nutrient levels were highly variable but generally higher during the last weeks of the flow, in both subsurface waters and in human impacted catchments. Up to 2000 μgN l−1 subsurface dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) was measured in human impacted catchments but only 315 μg N l−1 in natural catchments. Subsurface levels of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) were up to 310 μgP l−1 in natural catchments and up to 108 μgP l-1 in human impacted catchments. The maximum levels of both DIN and DRP in surface inflows were much higher in human impacted than in natural catchments. Conductivity and δ18O data showed general enrichment of snowbank meltwater presumably through evaporation from the active layer. This combined with fluctuating nutrient levels in catchment waters indicated that soil brines and decaying organic matter of natural and human origin were possible sources for nutrients and other salts. Marked salinization and substantially increased DIN levels near the research stations indicated that lake waters were receiving nutrients generated by humans.

(Received May 19 2000)
(Accepted February 26 2002)

Key Words: Antarctica; catchments; freshwater; human impact; nitrogen; phosphorus; piezometers.