Hydrology and pore water chemistry in a permafrost wetland, Ilulissat, Greenland

Søren Jessen, Hanne D. Holmslykke, Kristine Rasmussen, Niels Richardt, Peter E. Holm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrological and geochemical processes controlling the pore water chemistry in a permafrost wetland, with loam overlain by sphagnum peat, were investigated. The vertical distributions of dissolved Cl, and of pore water δ18O, appeared unrelated to ion freeze-out and isotope ice-water fractionation processes, respectively, dismissing solute freeze-out as a main control on the water chemistry. However, concentrations of major ions, others than Cl, generally increased with depth into the active layer. A conceptual model for water and solute movement in the active layer was derived. The model indicates upward diffusive transport of elements, released in the loam layer by mineral weathering, to the peat layer, in which lateral advective transport dominates. Active layer pore water and water of melted core sections of permafrost were of Ca-Mg-HCO3 type (1:1:4 stoichiometry) and were subsaturated for calcite and dolomite. The results are consistent with an annual cycling of inorganic carbon species, Ca and Mg, via cryogenic carbonate precipitation during fall freeze-up and their redissolution following spring thaw. Similarly, elevated Fe2+ concentrations appear to be related to cryogenic siderite formation. Pore water in the active layer showed high partial pressures of CO2, indicating the feasibility of bubble ebullition as a greenhouse gas emission pathway from permafrost wetlands. Elevated concentrations of geogenic trace elements (Ni, Al, and As) were observed, and the controlling geochemical processes are discussed. The conceptual model for water and solute movement was applied to quantify the contribution of released trace elements to a downstream lake in the permafrost catchment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4760-4774
Number of pages15
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • Arctic
  • ebullition
  • hydrogeology
  • inorganic carbon cycling
  • permafrost
  • rare earth elements

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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