Aerial view of Accomplishment Creek and the Sagavanirktok River in the Brooks Range of Alaska.  Photo by D.L. Kane


Freshwater Integration study (FWI) Featured Project:

Decadal to Centennial History of Lena River Discharge to the Arctic Ocean

NSF OPP-0229737 Dec. 2003-Dec. 2005

PIs: Eugene B. Karabanov, Douglas F. Williams
PhD students: Janiel Pinet Rivera and Straud Armstrong
Department of Geological Sciences, University of South Carolina


Project Overview | Principal Investigators | Participants | Support | 2003 Results | 2004 Plans




Project Overview

The Lena River, one of Siberia's three largest rivers, delivers approximately 10% of the global annual riverine input to the World Ocean (about 525 km3yr-1 of freshwater). The average sediment supply from the Lena to the Laptev Sea is about 21 x106 tons of suspended material per year. It is also estimated that annually the Lena River delivers to the Laptev Sea ~5.3 t6 of total organic carbon (4.5 t6 dissolved and 0.8 t6 particulate organic carbon). Our project combines a modern hydrologic calibration study of the Lena Delta estuary and historical hydrological records with high-resolution studies of sediment cores from the Lena River slope, flood plains, and a shallow shelf zone of the Laptev Sea. Our first major goal is to reconstruct high-resolution records of freshwater discharge variability and terrestrial organic carbon flux to the Arctic Ocean via the Lena River for the last 50-150 years. These records will be used to examine the effects of anthropogenic activities and global warming trends on freshwater discharge and organic carbon supply to the Arctic Ocean during this time interval. Our second major goal is to reconstruct the late Holocene record of freshwater discharge and organic carbon flux to the Arctic Ocean for the last 2,000 years. Our objective is to understand how late Holocene climate changes have affected the Lena River's fluvial dynamics and terrestrial organic carbon flux into the Arctic Ocean and how climatic changes affect watershed-river-upper ocean linkages.

To calibrate and parameterize historical records of the Lena River's fluvial dynamics with the sedimentary record of Laptev Sea, our work started in 2003 with ADCP-based hydrological studies in the Lena River and delta (see figure below). Data on the present-day discharge characteristics of the Lena River and measurements of particulate and dissolved carbon in the delta are now being used to understand the present-day fluvial regime and to calibrate our carbon flux-to-buried carbon ratio. To calculate present-day fluxes of freshwater-sediments-carbon to the Laptev Sea, we are combining our sediment/carbon measurements with measurements of current speed and direction, as well as of salinity, temperature, and turbidity. The sources of sedimentary organic carbon in the Lena delta and Laptev shelf are being traced using C, N stable isotopes, C/N elemental compositions, and terrestrial palynomorphs and phytocysts. We have also recovered piston and gravity cores along two transects that extend from the delta floodplain and across the delta onto the Laptev shelf (Fig. 2). To produce a reliable age model on annual-to-decadal scales, sediment age will be determined using 210Pb, 137Cs, and AMS radiocarbon dating (macrofossils). In order to reconstruct the Lena's fluvial dynamics, detailed fresh- and saltwater microfossil distributions downcore will be combined with meticulous lithological analyses, measurements of magnetic susceptibility and thin-section examinations. Downcore variations of Corg, Ntot, bio-SiO2, carbonate content, C and N stable isotope ratios will be measured. Finally, palynological studies will be performed to recover information about environmental changes in the Lena watershed.

During the last decade the Russian Arctic and especially the Laptev Sea have been the subject of serious studies but sediments of the Laptev Sea shelf have not been studied with a resolution necessary to understand climate-relevant changes of freshwater discharge and terrestrial carbon flux during the late Holocene, especially as related to human influenced changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and land use. We expect that our research will produce a record for the last 50-150 years with annual-to-decadal resolution, as well as a decadal-centennial scale history of freshwater and terrestrial carbon flux variations to the Arctic Ocean over the last 2,000 years of the Late Holocene. In this same time frame but on a regional scale, we plan to correlate our data with available long tree-ring records from the Russian Arctic in order to generate reliable information on humidity and precipitation of Arctic/Pan Arctic regions. Globally, our study will contribute to understanding the effects of Russian riverine contributions to the Arctic on the global hydrologic and carbon cycles. Our proposed research is in a good agreement with major ideas and topics of SEARCH, Arctic-CHAMP and ASOF projects of NSF-ARCSS.

Our research also has a strong educational outreach component involving Russian and American undergraduates (see http://schc.sc.edu/Arctic/) and an informal science education program with a new children's museum (EdVenture) in Columbia, SC (see http://schc.sc.edu/Arctic/GoPolar/). The MARE program gives undergraduates the opportunity to gain experience working in estuaries. A group of MARE students participated in the first Lena-Laptev 2003 expedition chronicled in this report. The informal science program is called "Go Polar! Cool Science in the Arctic" and is funded by NSF through ESI-0336928. Go Polar! is a layered and integrated program, with multiple entry points and diverse activities, designed to expose a wide-range of young children and their families to the nature of scientific research in the Arctic. Central Go Polar! themes are:
  • The importance and uniqueness of the Arctic
  • The relationship of the Arctic to global climate change and ocean circulation
  • Human, plant and animal adaptations to the dynamic landscapes of the Arctic

Unique elements of the Go Polar program:
  • EdVenture Polar Club with a monthly e-Go Polar! newsletter announcing special events or Arctic news.
  • Go Polar! Passport: featuring a photograph of the child member with her/his name in Russian and English, a schedule of program activities, information about the Arctic (like a resource booklet), and a glossary of Arctic terms in Russian and English in the respective alphabets.
  • Special Honors course (Science of the Arctic) to encourage interactions among young EdVenture children and college undergraduates from the University of South Carolina, Fall 2004 and Spring 2005 semesters.
  • Activities for school groups and home-schoolers
  • Arctic Discovery Boxes in which children will be able to explore human adaptations in the Arctic and touch Polar BioFacts in cooperation with renowned Riverbanks Zoo and Garden.
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Principal Investigators

Eugene B. Karabanov
University of South Carolina
Eugene B. Karabanov is one of two Principal Investigators of the History of Lena River Discharge Project. Karabanov is a Research Associate Professor of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of South Carolina, SC, and a Principal Investigator in the Institute of Geochemistry Russian Academy of Sciences, Irkutsk, Russia. Karabanov has more than 30 years of experience studying sediments of Lake Baikal, Black Sea, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and Arctic Seas. He has produced more then 100 publications including several books concerning the sediments, sedimentology, ecology, paleoecology and paleoclimate reconstruction in Siberia and Central Asia. His research interest focuses on sedimentology and sedimentary processes as a tool for reconstructing of high-resolution paleorecords of environmental and climatic changes in terrestrial and marine environments. The History of Lena River Discharge Project is the first big project of the PI in the Arctic.
Phone: (803) 777-7668; Email: ekarab@geol.sc.edu


Douglas F. Williams
University of South Carolina
Williams is co-PI in the History of Lena River Discharge Project. Williams has been conducting paleoclimate and paleolimnological research in Russia for over a decade. In 1989 he spearheaded a Russian-American-Japanese drilling project to study the history of the world's deepest and oldest lake, Lake Baikal. BDP has successfully drilled over 1400m of sediments spanning the last 8 million years. In the summer of 2003, Williams and Karabanov took eight USC students to the Laptev Sea of the Russian Arctic via a 3,500 km journey through the heart of Siberia on the Lena River. Williams has published nearly 200 scientific papers, received numerous research grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation, and won awards at USC for outstanding teaching and mentoring of undergraduates. Currently he is Associate Dean of the South Carolina Honors College and Carolina Trustee Professor of Marine and Geological Sciences at USC where he has been a faculty member since 1977.
Phone: (803) 777-8102; Email: doug.williams@schc.edu

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Participants

Janiel Rivera Pinet
University of South Carolina
Rivera received his BS and MS from the University of Puerto Rico and began his PhD work at USC in 2002. His dissertation involves a high resolution study of the Late Holocene sedimentation in the continental shelf of the Laptev Sea, Russian Arctic. This study will use the results of the fine sedimentary structures and the components that form those structures combined with estimated sedimentation rates, to produce the high-resolution stratigraphic framework necessary to understand how climate relevant changes have affected the freshwater discharge from the Lena River during the last 1000 years. His dissertation involves core sampling with Benthos gravity core, piston gravity cores and vibrocore, magnetic susceptibility profiles, particle size fractionation with Sedigraph and wet sieving analysis, and computer-assisted thin-section analyses.
Phone: (803) 777-7525; Email: jrivera@geol.sc.edu

Straud J. Armstrong
University of South Carolina
Straud J. Armstrong began working on the Lena River, Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea during the 2003 field season. His goal is to assess modern patterns of flow in the Lena River and its Delta, as well as the Laptev and East Siberian Seas, using an ADCP, multi-parameter CTD, GPS, as well as Matlab and GIS software as the primary tools.
Phone: (803) 777-2758; Email: Sarmstrong@geol.sc.edu>

Michail I. Kuzmin
Institute of Geochemistry, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Irkutsk, Russia
Academician, Professor, Dr. of Sciences, Director of Institute of Geochemistry, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Irkutsk, Russia His research focuses on plate tectonics, volcanism, geochemistry and high-resolution and long records of environmental and climatic changes in Asia. M.I. Kuzmin is an author of numerous articles and books.
Phone: 7(3952) 42-6500; Email: makhom@igc.irk.ru

Valerii Buchinskyi
Institute of Geochemistry, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Irkutsk, Russia
PhD in Geochemistry, Principal Investigator of Institute of Geochemistry, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Irkutsk, Russia. Co-Chef Scientist of Lena River Cruise during 2003 field season. His research focuses on geochemistry and modeling of low-temperature geochemical processes and environmental and climatic changes in Asia. Valerii is an author of numerous articles and inventions.
Phone: 7(3952) 42-6500; Email: val@igc.irk.ru

Ivan Kalugin
United Institute of Geology, Geophysics and Minerology, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, Russia
His research focuses on sedimentology and geochemistry as a tool for reconstructing of high-resolution records of environmental and climatic changes in terrestrial environments.
Email: ikalugin@uiggm.nsc.ru

Alexander U. Gukov
Director of Lena Delta National Reserve, Tiksi, Russia
His research focuses on ecology of Arctic Seas and environmental changes in Arctic induced by human activities and global warming. Alexander is an author of the book "The Grate Polunya".
Phone: 7(41167) 52-535; Email: sgukov@mail.ru

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Members of MARE who participated in the Lena 2003 expedition:
Laurel Stanko, Sophomore, Marine Science major, water chemistry, CTD profiling
Ian Conboy, Junior, Marine Science major, meiofauna
Marc Russell, Senior, Marine Science major (now MS candidate), sediment coring
Brandy Glett, MS candidate, Marine Science, ADCP hydrography
Alexandra Deyneka, Senior, Art History major, logistical coordination
Lauren Heath, Senior, Media Arts major, expedition documentarian/cinematographer

For further information about MARE, see http://schc.sc.edu/MARE/mare.htm

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Support

Primary Support for Decadal to Centennial History of Lena River Discharge to the Arctic Ocean Project comes from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs, Arctic System Science Program (Grant OPP# 0229737, for 2003-2005 years). VECO Polar Resources provided Medical Support and support of satellite phone.

Additional support has been provided by the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk and by the Russian Foundation for Fundamental Research (RFFI) - Grant # 03 05 65127.

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Summary of 2003 Season

During 2003 field season we performed two scientific cruises to the Russian Arctic. The first cruise took place on Lena River and Lena River Delta during June-August using the passenger ship Moscowsky 11 (see photo below). We sailed down Lena River from Ust-Kut (Irkutsk Region) to Tiksi (Yakut Republic) more then 3600 km and back. We visited several villages and towns on Lena River including: Ust-Kut, Kirensk, Yakutsk, Gigansk, Tiksi. The Russian-American team, including eight students from USC and one Russian student from St. Petersberg, collected water, sediment and soil samples and performed CTD and ADCP measurements along the river. The second cruise took place on the Laptev Sea and Eastern Siberian Sea during September-October using the Russian hydrographic vessel, RV Ivan Kireev (see photo below).



Moscowsky 11 (above left) and RV Ivan Kireev (above right)

The expedition started from Tiksi and sailed via the Dmitrii Laptev Strait to Eastern Siberia Sea. We worked near the Novosibirsk Islands (Novaia Sibir) and moved far to East to Wrangel Island (180° E). During this trip we collected sediment cores and performed ADCP measurements of current speed and direction. At the end of our cruise we returned back to the Laptev Sea and collected sediments cores and ADCP data from Lena River delta slope.

Lena River and Lena Delta Cruise on Moscowsky 11 (15 June - 10 August 2003):

Map of sampling sites 2003 field season

During the Lena River-Laptev Sea cruise, we had two major goals and accomplished two major ideas of our proposal. First -- collect data about present day Lena River water and chemical discharge, fluvial dynamics and terrestrial organic carbon flux into the Arctic Ocean. This goal was directed towards obtaining data to parameterize historical records of the Lena River discharge with sedimentary records from Lena Delta and Laptev Sea. Our second goal was to collect sedimentary cores from the Lena River estuary (Neelov Bay) and Lena River delta plain to obtain sedimentary records of Lena River discharge and history of catastrophic floods on the river delta.

We also collected water, suspended matter, bottom sediments and soil samples from 46 different sites on Lena River and Lena Delta (see map above). We also collected samples of phyto- and zooplankton, benthos, fishes and some samples of plants from river banks. We also measured water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, CO2, ammonium, nitrate, silica, phosphate and major ions concentration. At each site on Lena River, its delta channels and major tributaries, we performed continuous measurements of current speed and direction together with backscatter data (that provide information about suspended matter distribution) using an RDI Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) to calculate water and suspended matter discharge. A total of 25 ADCP transects (33 profiles) were performed.

Using Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) to calculate water and suspended matter discharge




To understand tidal effects to Lena River water discharge, we also performed 36 hours of ADCP and CTD surveies on last transect where Lena River water enters the Laptev Sea. We found a strong relation between water discharge and tide. River discharge during peak of tidal flood is negative and Laptev Sea water enters to Neelov Bay (maximum negative discharge is 889 m3/cek) (see figure to left).

During this cruise we also collected 11 gravity and vibrocores 100-150 cm long from Neelov Bay (see map below) to obtain sedimentary records from the Lena River estuary. Four vibrocores 120-150 cm long and one samples set from outcrop (8 m high with 3 cm sampling interval) were collected from Lena River delta plain (Samoilov and Omuksuor Islands) to obtain records of vegetation changes and records of catastrophic discharge events during Late Holocene.


Satellite photo of Lena River delta with sampling sites (above left), and
outcrop sampling site on Holocene terrace of Samoilov Island (above right)


Laptev Sea and Eastern Siberian Sea on Russian Hydrographic Vessel RV Ivan Kireev
(5 September-5 October 2003)

Our participation in this cruise was part of Igor Semiletov's cruise to Eastern Siberian Sea (ESS). During this part of our 2003 field season we collected 27 short (30-70 cm long) gravity cores from the Eastern Siberian Sea to obtain information about sediment distribution, concentration of organic matter and major elements in bottom sediments. On each coring site we collected ADCP data of current speed and direction and also made measurements on two transects (Western and Eastern parts of ESS) with continuous ADCP measurements of current speed and direction together with backscatter data to calculate water and suspended matter flow on the shelf of ESS (see map). During this cruise we also collected 11 gravity cores from the Lena River delta slope from water depths 10-30 m to obtain records of Lena River discharge during the Late Holocene (see maps and core correlation figure).

Cores collected along a transect that extends from the Lena delta floodplain onto the Laptev shelf.
Magnetic susceptibility measurements were used for initial correlation and also to show the extent
of river domination on sedimentation of Laptev Sea shelf.

Work with the ADCP in shallow areas of the ESS shelf helped us to record and understand the negative effect of ship's propeller to disturbing waters under the ship and resuspention of bottom sediments into the water column. The effect of propeller backwash is remarkable and may strongly affect CTD measurements and contaminate water samples unless sampling is delayed to avoid such negative effects.

During our 2003 field season several hundred samples (water, suspended matter and sediments) were collected on the Lena River, Lena River delta, Laptev and Eastern Siberia Seas. We established good relations with our Russian partners and colleagues, and we obtained good experience working in the Russian Arctic. All water samples collected during the 2003 field season are already analyzed and sediment samples are being processed.

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Plans for 2004 Field Season (August-September 2004)

During the coming field season (August-September 2004) we plan to continue collection of vibro and gravity cores from Laptev Sea shelf and Lena Delta flood plain together with collection of samples from outcrops to accomplish our major goal of obtaining sedimentary records of Lena River discharge and catastrophic discharge events during Late Holocene.

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Photographs and text are courtesy of Doug Williams and Eugene Karabanov
of the University of South Carolina





Note to FWI Investigators:
To volunteer to be the next FWI Featured Project, email Jonathan Pundsack at the Arctic-CHAMP Science Management Office. We will Feature a different project every 2-3 months. Also, if your project has its own website, please forward the address so we can include that in our links.

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Photo: Aerial view of Accomplishment Creek and the
     Sagavanirktok River in the Brooks Range of Alaska.  Photo by D.L. Kane