Catchment-scale thawing and greening decreases long-term nitrogen export in NE Greenland

Shannon L. Speir*, Jennifer L. Tank, Ada Pastor, Marc F. Muller, Mikhail Mastepanov, Tenna Riis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperLetterpeer-review


Climate change is expected to alter nitrogen (N) export from Arctic rivers, with potential implications for fragile coastal ecosystems and fisheries. Yet, the directionality of change is poorly understood, as increased mobilization of N in a ‘thawing’ Arctic is countered by higher rates of vegetative uptake in a ‘greening’ Arctic, particularly in the understudied region of Greenland. We use an unprecedented dataset of long-term (n = 18 years) river chemistry, streamflow, and catchment-scale changes in snow and vegetation to document changing riverine N loss in Greenland. We documented decreasing inorganic and organic N loads, linked to decreasing snow stores, warming soils, and enhanced plant uptake. Higher variability in N export across years also points to the increasing role of high flow events in driving downstream N loss. This alteration in N cycling may significantly reduce both inorganic and organic N transport across the terrestrial-aquatic boundary during the open water season in a rapidly warming Greenland.

Original languageEnglish
Article number054031
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024


  • climate change
  • ecosystem succession
  • nutrient availability
  • permafrost
  • rivers


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