Input of terrestrial organic matter linked to deglaciation increased mercury transport to the Svalbard fjords

Haryun Kim, Sae Yun Kwon, Kitack Lee, Dhongil Lim, Seunghee Han, Tae Wook Kim, Young Ji Joo, Jaesoo Lim, Moo Hee Kang, Seung Il Nam

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Deglaciation has accelerated the transport of minerals as well as modern and ancient organic matter from land to fjord sediments in Spitsbergen, Svalbard, in the European Arctic Ocean. Consequently, such sediments may contain significant levels of total mercury (THg) bound to terrestrial organic matter. The present study compared THg contents in surface sediments from three fjord settings in Spitsbergen: Hornsund in the southern Spitsbergen, which has high annual volume of loss glacier and receives sediment from multiple tidewater glaciers, Dicksonfjorden in the central Spitsbergen, which receives sediment from glacifluvial rivers, and Wijdefjorden in the northern Spitsbergen, which receive sediments from a mixture of tidewater glaciers and glacifluvial rivers. Our results showed that the THg (52 ± 15 ng g−1) bound to organic matter (OM) was the highest in the Hornsund surface sediments, where the glacier loss (0.44 km3 yr−1) and organic carbon accumulation rates (9.3 ~ 49.4 g m−2 yr−1) were elevated compared to other fjords. Furthermore, the δ13C (–27 ~ –24‰) and δ34S values (–10 ~ 15‰) of OM indicated that most of OM were originated from terrestrial sources. Thus, the temperature-driven glacial melting could release more OM originating from the meltwater or terrestrial materials, which are available for THg binding in the European Arctic fjord ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3446
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is primarily supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grants (2015M1A5A1037243, PN20090 and 2019R1F1A1059106) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MOIT) of Korean Government. Partial supports were provided by the National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea Research Program (No. 2020M00300), by Mid-Career Researcher Program (No. 2018R1A2A1A19019281), by Global Research Laboratory Program (No. 2013K1A1A2A02078278) of the NRF, by Polar Academic Program (No. PD16010). Finally, we kindly acknowledge Dr. Witold Szczuciński and Dr. Matthias Forwick for providing samples and sincere comments and the help of the captains and crews of R.V. Helmer Hanssen, as well as the scientific parties on board.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

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