The Importance of Riverine Nutrient Supply for the Marine Silica Pump of Arctic Shelves: Evidence From the Laptev Sea

M. C. F. Debyser, L. Pichevin, Robyn Tuerena, A. Doncila, I. Semiletov, R. S. Ganeshram

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Arctic shelves receive a large load of nutrients from Arctic rivers, which play a major role in the biogeochemical cycles of the Arctic Ocean. In this study, we present measurements of dissolved silicon isotopes (δ30Si(OH)4) around the Laptev Sea and surface waters of the Eurasian shelves collected in October 2018 to document terrestrial silicon modifications on shelves and their contribution to the Arctic basin. Nitrogen was found to be depleted in surface waters and the limiting nutrient to primary production in the Laptev Sea, allowing excess silicon export to the central Arctic Ocean. Heavy δ30Si(OH)4 in the water column was linked to the strong biological removal of DSi on shelves, enabled by vigorous N recycling. From isotopically constrained processes, we estimate that >50% of the silicon from riverine inputs is removed within the Lena River delta and on the Laptev Sea shelf. Extrapolating this to major Siberian rivers, this leads to an export of 2.5 ± 0.8 kmol/s of riverine silicon through the Transpolar Drift. An updated isotopic budget of the Arctic Ocean reproduces the observed δ30Si(OH)4 signatures out of the Arctic Ocean and underlines the importance of biological processes in modulating silicon export. Given that opal burial fluxes on Artic shelves are controlled by denitrification and N-limitation, these processes are sensitive to ongoing climate change. As a consequence of higher riverine DSi inputs and shelf denitrification responding to productivity, it is inferred that silicon export from the Arctic Ocean could increase in the future, accompanied by lighter δ30Si(OH)4 signatures.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2024


  • Artic Ocean
  • biogeochemical cycles
  • Laptev Sea
  • Si budget
  • silicon isotopes


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