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Biofilm Growth in Two Streams Draining Mountainous Permafrost Catchments in NE Greenland

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  • A. Pastor
  • ,
  • N. Wu
  • ,
  • L. J. Skovsholt
  • ,
  • T. Riis

The objective of this study was to evaluate how stream water nutrient concentrations influence biofilm accrual in streams draining mountainous permafrost headwaters. We selected six stream locations in the Zackenberg area (NE Greenland, 74°N) subjected to a gradient in the areal contribution of different geomorphological units in the watersheds and channel stability. We used nutrient diffusing substrates to evaluate biofilm growth (autotrophic and total biomass). We found elevated stream nitrate concentrations in samples from upstream reaches draining larger areas of solifluction sheets and bare rock and with higher channel instability. Nitrate had the highest standardized effect on autotrophic biofilm growth on control disks. However, stream biofilm growth was not nutrient limited as shown by the absence of an increase in biofilm biomass as a response to the experimental nutrient additions. The response to nutrient additions via diffusing substrates depended on the altitude gradient. Overall, our results showed stream nitrogen availability to be one of the main drivers of algal biofilm accrual in high-Arctic streams, suggesting that the predicted changes in nutrient exports induced by climate change will have strong impacts on the biogeochemistry and ecological functioning of high-Arctic streams.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019JG005557
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

    Research areas

  • biofilm, High Arctic, nitrogen, phosphorous, stream

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