Tracing terrestrial dissolved organic carbon export from the Arctic Ocean: linking terrestrial biomarkers to organic matter fluorescence properties.

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Colin Andrew Stedmon


Technical University of Denmark


DKK 400,000




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A vast amount of organic carbon exists as dissolved organic matter (DOM) in all natural waters. DOM is a super-mixture of organic compounds and subsequently difficult to characterise and trace. A portion of DOM is fluorescent when illuminated with UV light and this property can be used to trace it in aquatic environments. The focus of this project is on quantifying the export of organic carbon from the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. The grant from the Carlsberg Foundation will allow us to purchase of a state of the art spectral fluorometer for DOM measurements.


DOM plays a role in the global carbon cycle. In the oceans there is the same amount of carbon as DOM as there is CO2 in the atmosphere. So small changes in its production or degradation can greatly influence atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The Arctic carbon cycle is changing. A tremendous amount of organic matter is stored in permafrost and now being supplied to the ocean as organic matter. This project will examine what the fate of this material is so we can understand what impact it will have on the global carbon cycle.


With the instrumentation for the project supported by the Carlsberg Foundation we can characterise and trace Arctic DOM. In particular, the instrument will be used as part of a collaboration with Norwegian scientist in the waters of the Fram Strait, between Greenland and Svalbard. This is one of two major gateways for Arctic organic matter to leave the Arctic Ocean and mix into the Atlantic. Additionally, measurements will contribute to an EU project studying the fate of permafrost organic matter in the coastal Arctic, specifically in the region of the Mackenzie river in northern Canada.

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