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Radionuclides and soil properties as indicators of glacier retreat in a recently deglaciated permafrost environment of the Maritime Antarctica

AuthorsNavas Izquierdo, Ana ; Oliva, Marc; Ruiz-Fernández, Jesús; Gaspar Ferrer, Leticia ; Quijano Gaudes, Laura ; Lizaga Villuendas, Iván
Glacial landforms
Elephant Point
Issue DateDec-2017
CitationNavas A, Oliva M, Ruiz-Fernández J, Gaspar L, Quijano L, Lizaga I. Radionuclides and soil properties as indicators of glacier retreat in a recently deglaciated permafrost environment of the Maritime Antarctica. Science of The Total Environment 609: 192-204 (2017)
AbstractMany ice-free environments in Maritime Antarctica are undergoing rapid and substantial environmental changes in response to recent climate trends. This is the case of Elephant Point (Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands, SSI), where the glacier retreat recorded during the last six decades exposed 17% of this small peninsula, namely a moraine extending from the western to the eastern coastlines and a relatively flat proglacial surface. In the southern margin of the peninsula, a sequence of Holocene raised beaches and several bedrock plateaus are also distributed. A main issue in this environment is the role of glacier retreat and permafrost controlling the recently formed soils. To this purpose, a total of 10 sites were sampled along a transect crossing raised beaches and moraine materials following the direction of glacier retreat. At the selected sites surface samples were collected until 12 cm depth and sectioned at 3 cm depth intervals to analyse main properties, grain size, pH, electrical conductivity and carbonates. Besides, elemental composition and fallout (FRNs) and environmental radionuclides (ERNs) were analysed. To assess if profile characteristics within the active layer are affected by glacier retreat variations of organic carbon and carbon fractions and 137Cs contents were examined. The presence of organic carbon (range: 0.13–3.19%), and 137Cs (range: bdl–10.1 Bq kg− 1) was only found at the raised beaches. The surface samples had abundant coarse fractions in rich sandy matrix with increasing acidic pH towards the coast. Significant differences were found in the elemental composition and the radionuclides between the moraine and raised beaches. Soil forming processes are related to the time of exposure of the landforms after glacier retreat. The results obtained confirm the potential for using geomorphological, edaphic and geochemical data to assess the influence of different stages of glacier retreat in recent soils and sediments.
Description45 Pags.- 4 Figs.- 6 Tabls. The definitive version is available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00489697
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.07.115
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