This work focuses on the behavior of the stable Mg and Si isotope compositions of the largest Arctic river, the Yenisey River and 28 of its major and minor tributaries during the spring flood period. Samples were collected along a 1500 km latitudinal profile covering a wide range of permafrost, lithology, and vegetation. Despite significant contrasts in the main physico-geographical, climate, and lithological parameters of the watersheds, the isotope composition of both dissolved Mg and Si was found to be only weakly influenced by the degree of the permafrost coverage, type of vegetation (forest vs. tundra), and lithology (granites, basalts, carbonates or terrigenous rocks). This observation is generally consistent with the lack of chemical uptake of Mg and Si by soil mineral formation and vegetation during the early spring. The radiogenic Sr isotope composition of the Yenisey and its tributaries varied within a narrow range (0.708 ⩽ 87Sr/86Sr ⩽ 0.711) reflecting the dominance of Phanerozoic rock weathering and/or atmospheric deposition on these compositions. The Mg and Si isotopic compositions of riverine samples reflect two main processes with distinct isotopic signatures. First, isotopically heavier Mg (δ26Mg = −1.0 ± 0.2‰) and isotopically lighter Si (δ30Si = 1.0 ± 0.25‰) are added to the waters by river suspended matter dissolution and leaching from vegetation biomass/topsoil litter. Second, isotopically lighter Mg (δ26Mg = −1.5 to −1.75‰) and isotopically heavier Si (δ30Si = 1.75–2.0‰) are delivered to the Yenisey's tributaries from deep underground water feeding the rivers via taliks. This lighter Mg and heavier Si isotopic composition is interpreted to originate from Precambrian dolomite dissolution and aluminosilicate dissolution coupled with authigenic mineral precipitation, respectively, in deep underground water reservoirs. Taking account of the isotopic composition evolution over the course of the year established earlier on mono-lithological watersheds of the Yenisey basin, the average annual isotopic signatures of the Yenisey river arriving to the Arctic Ocean are estimated to be δ26Mg = −1.58 ± 0.30‰ and δ30Si = +1.60 ± 0.25‰. As the Yenisey is the largest river feeding the Arctic Ocean and as it samples a large variety of environments and lithologies, these values may be reasonable estimates for the average Mg and Si isotopic composition of the dissolved riverine flux to the Arctic Ocean.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology