Articles | Volume 17, issue 10
Research article
08 Oct 2013
Research article |  | 08 Oct 2013

Subsurface release and transport of dissolved carbon in a discontinuous permafrost region

E. J. Jantze, S. W. Lyon, and G. Destouni

Abstract. Subsurface hydrological flow pathways and advection rates through the landscape affect the quantity and timing of hydrological transport of dissolved carbon. This study investigates hydrological carbon transport through the subsurface to streams and how it is affected by the distribution of subsurface hydrological pathways and travel times through the landscape. We develop a consistent mechanistic, pathway- and travel time-based modeling approach for release and transport of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). The model implications are tested against observations in the subarctic Abiskojokken catchment in northernmost Sweden (68°21' N, 18°49' E) as a field case example of a discontinuous permafrost region. The results show: (a) For DOC, both concentration and load are essentially flow-independent because their dynamics are instead dominated by the annual renewal and depletion. Specifically, the flow independence is the result of the small characteristic DOC respiration-dissolution time scale, in the range of 1 yr, relative to the average travel time of water through the subsurface to the stream. (b) For DIC, the load is highly flow-dependent due to the large characteristic weathering-dissolution time, much larger than 1 yr, relative to the average subsurface water travel time to the stream. This rate relation keeps the DIC concentration essentially flow-independent, and thereby less fluctuating in time than the DIC load.