Spatial and Temporal Assessment of Mercury and Organic Matter in Thermokarst Affected Lakes of the Mackenzie Delta Uplands, NT, Canada Journal Articles uri icon

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  • We examined dated sediment cores from 14 thermokarst affected lakes in the Mackenzie Delta uplands, NT, Arctic Canada, using a case-control analysis to determine how retrogressive thaw slump development from degrading permafrost affected the delivery of mercury (Hg) and organic carbon (OC) to lakes. We show that sediments from the lakes with retrogressive thaw slump development on their shorelines (slump-affected lakes) had higher sedimentation rates and lower total Hg (THg), methyl mercury (MeHg), and lower organic carbon concentrations compared to lakes where thaw slumps were absent (reference lakes). There was no difference in focus-corrected Hg flux to sediments between reference lakes and slump-affected lakes, indicating that the lower sediment Hg concentration in slump-affected lakes was due to dilution by rapid inorganic sedimentation in the slump-affected lakes. Sedimentation rates were inversely correlated with THg concentrations in sediments among the 14 lakes considered, and explained 68% of the variance in THg concentration in surface sediment, further supporting the dilution hypothesis. We observed higher S2 (algal-derived carbon) and particulate organic carbon (POC) concentrations in sediment profiles from reference lakes than in slump lakes, likely because of dilution by inorganic siliciclastic matter in cores from slump-affected lakes. We conclude that retrogressive thaw slump development increases inorganic sedimentation in lakes, and decreases concentrations of organic carbon and associated Hg and MeHg in sediments.


  • Deison, Ramin
  • Smol, John P
  • Kokelj, Steve V
  • Pisaric, Michael
  • Kimpe, Linda E
  • Poulain, Alexandre J
  • Sanei, Hamed
  • Thienpont, Joshua R
  • Blais, Jules M

publication date

  • August 21, 2012