Climate impact on the carbon emission and export from Siberian inland waters (SIWA)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: School of Geosciences


Understanding climate systems requires knowledge of climatic effects on C cycling and
greenhouse gas dynamics in coupled land-water-atmospheric systems, and in-turn, how these
feedback into the climate system. A major knowledge gap is to what extent C released from
permafrost soils is transported, processed and emitted as CO2 and CH4 in inland waters vs.
exported to downstream costal and ocean waters. Lakes and streams at high latitudes release
significant amounts of CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere. These fluxes are largely controlled
by climate dependent factors (temperature, wind, precipitation) and hydrological flowpaths to
water bodies, either directly or via its regulation of the terrestrial production and export of
C6,7. Of particular importance is the organic C released from thawing permafrost which could
largely be metabolized leading to increased CO2 and CH4 emissions. C emission from
lakes and streams in areas of discontinuous permafrost has been shown to be comparable to
terrestrial atmospheric C exchange and to exceed downstream C export, implying an
important role of inland waters in the C cycle.

Despite these advances in our understanding of C fluxes in lakes and streams there is a
fundamental knowledge gap of climate impact on C transport and cycling in inland waters at
high latitudes, and especially when attempting to extrapolate and predict large scale patterns
and future trends. This is particularly true for the vast areas of boreal and arctic

This project proposes a comparative study of lake-stream networks across a climate gradient (boreal-arctic) in western Siberia (Fig. 2) covering a large range of permafrost conditions (absence-sporadic-discontinuous-continuous). The project includes (1) field surveys of CO2 and CH4 concentrations in approximately 50 lakes and 50 streams, and a more (2) detailed quantification of annual lateral and vertical C fluxes in selected catchments. Methods include a combination of manual and continuous measurements of dissolved organic and inorganic C, CO2, CH4 and gas transfer velocity (k) using chamber and logger techniques. Isotopic tracer (2H, 18O) sampling and modelling will allow hydrological transit times in each catchment and aquatic network to be estimated, and stream flow to be separated into different geographic sources of flow contribution within catchments16,17. Bioassay experiments18 will be used to assess temperature dependency in degradation rates, and in total bioavailability, of river DOC across the gradient. Additional measurements include depth, pH, nutrients, water temperature, wind, and discharge for each region. Most of the equipment needed is already available in the group. The project will have access to established field sites, digital maps of the region and to laboratory facilities at Tomsk State University, Russia.

The C footprint of the project will be minimized as far as possible by following the guidelines provided by JPI Climate website for travel, meetings, office and infrastructure. For this project it is of particular importance to minimize travel by virtual meetings, by having local staff for sampling, by planning meetings to minimize travel distances and to enable use of night trains.

Planned Impact

Stakeholders and users: The proposed project tackles key uncertainties in the effects and feedbacks between changes in climate and permafrost dynamics and ecosystem biogeochemistry that are directly relevant to coupled GCMs used for predicting the consequences of climatic change; these are a primary tool to allow society, through its policy, to respond to, and anticipate, potential consequences of climate and environmental change. Hence the main beneficiaries will be northern government departments and their relevant agencies. The benefits would be improved modelling and hence more robust outputs and understanding leading to stronger evidence based policy decisions. The main route to dissemination to governments internationally is through IPCC and its scientific evidence base. Understanding the relationships between hydrology and ecosystem response is crucial for determining environmental standards for Water Framework Directives and assisting in the future development of ecologically based assessment tools.
High visibility by high quality publications, presentations, special sessions/workshops and networking is efficient means for knowledge transfer to the society (see details of these activities above). The webpage will be an addition channel for outreach to society. We will invite stakeholders to special sessions and to the workshop. We will also report to and interact with the Freshwater Ecosystem Monitoring Group (FEMG, Jan Karlsson is part of expert group lead from Sweden), an expert group within CAFF (Biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council) as we anticipate our results will have implications for understanding habitat properties of importance for freshwater organisms. Further, we will communicate the results of the project to the society via different outreach activities (regular public lectures and excursions during summer season) carried out at the Climate Impacts Research Centre (CIRC, Jan Karlsson is codirector).

Knowledge exchange-The project will actively interact with national and international colleagues (e.g. via IFBAR, THAW, HYDRA, VeWa mentioned above). International guest researchers will be invited to some project meetings to stimulate global knowledge transfer and connect to possible related efforts at other latitudes. This includes other related consortia within JPi Climate where there may be large potential for added value by collaboration and exchange of knowledge. An added value of the interdisciplinary and international nature of the project is training of postdoctoral, master and PhD students in state-of-the-art methods applied to environmental studies focused on tracing sources and fates of carbon in the environment. For placement funding we will approach the NERC policy placement programme, and bid to the NERC International Opportunities Fund. For engagement with schools outside of the fieldwork area, our past experience shows it is best to use STEM Ambassadors as one school is more willing to share comment through existing schools networks. Therefore schools visits will be arranged as part of STEM programme.


10 25 50

Description We developed a novel, parsimonious model to simulate snowpack isotope fractionation and estimate isotope ratios in snowmelt water. Stable isotope inputs are most important for any estimation of transit times of waters in landscapes, and it is very difficult to measure these data, particular in snow and frost influenced (artic) regions.

Extensive stable water isotope dataset collected during the project so far allowed us to estimate water sources and transit times in catchments in Western Siberia lowlands. The data show intensive mixing of water the catchments along our studied 1600 km long river transect. Also, we are able to show how landscape characteristics, such as latitude, and wetland and permafrost coverage affect water residence times in tributaries along the transect. We are making good progress in fulfilling our key objective to link information for hydrological transit time proxies with carbon flux measurements from rivers and lakes conducted by our SIWA project partners. This linkages is a crucial part of the whole project and will be further developed in the final year of the project.
Exploitation Route Several of the published papers are highly cited already (despite being published not long ago) - so there is clearly an uptake of the findings in the community.
Sectors Environment

Description We had some initial media coverage and engagement activities. We used year 1 to introduce the project. Details are given under engagement activities.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description The transmissive critical zone
Amount £360,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N007468/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 12/2018
Title Modelling framework for snowpack and snowmelt isotopic composition 
Description We have developed novel parsimonious algorithms to estimate the evolution of snowpack isotopic composition during snow covered period and snowmelt. Isotopic composition of snowpack is changed by isotopic fractionation, namely phase transformations from solid to vapour (sublimation) and solid to liquid (fusion). Our modelling approach can estimate, as far as we are aware for the first time, spatially distributed isotopic composition of snowmelt water accounting for the fractionation processes above. The isotope algorithm is coupled to a process-based interception-accumulation-melt model 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The model shows great potential in gaining better and more spatially and temporally consistent estimates of isotopic composition of snowmelt water. It can be used facilitate and advance the use of stable water isotope tracer in better understanding the hydrology of snow-influenced environments. 
Title Spatially distributed tracer-aided rainfall-runoff model (STARR) 
Description The STARR model is developed in the University of Aberdeen research group with continuous efforts for model improvement. The STARR framework couples hydrological and tracer (stable water isotope) fluxes and is fully spatially distributed. This allows the estimation of water flow paths and residence times not only in streams, but also in different landscape units. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The model algorithms and model field applications in cold climate catchments have been published in two peer-reviewed journals. The model has shown great promise in improving understanding of water storage and flow paths in snow-influenced catchments. 
Title Stable water isotope database for Ob watershed 
Description Dataset captures an unprecedented spatial extent of stable water isotopes (oxygen-18 and deuterium) in Siberian inland waters and soil waters. The final dataset comprises 1084 analysed samples from rivers, lakes and soil solutions. Samples are collected by Tomsk State University and Analysed by the University of Aberdeen. Sampling locations follow primarily the main stem of River Ob spanning the extent of 56-68 deg latitude and 74-89 deg longitude covering non-permafrost, discontinuous permafrost and permafrost areas. Water samples are collected in intensive sampling campaigns for all hydrological seasons during 2014-2016. The main channel of river Ob near the city of Tomsk is sampled every other day since September 2015 building a dataset of unique temporal resolution in a major arctic river. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Database will be used to estimate water transit times in Siberian inland waters. Results are crucial for understanding carbon emission (to atmosphere) and export (via watercourses) from organic rich permafrost affected soils. In addition, the database allows the formulating of isoscapes in spatially vast permafrost affected regions, which is of general scientific interest in isotope hydrology. 
Description D. Porcelli, Oxford University, River Lena sampling 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Department of Earth Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Don Porcelli from Oxford University, Earth sciences joined the SIWA project meeting in Stockholm 21 Oct 2016. He presented work done by his group in river Lena watershed, another major watershed in Siberian permafrost region. The meeting resulted in plans to pool resources in terms of water sampling, and thereby providing a possibility for SIWA to use also data from another vast permafrost dominated watershed. Discussions for collaborative field campaigns for 2016 and 2017 are ongoing.
Collaborator Contribution Oleg Pokrovsky (PI at the university of Toulouse) has long lasting collaboration with this partnership in joined projects, providing a good platform to establish collaboration within the SIWA project.
Impact Plans for joined field campaigns and resulting data sharing for 2016 and 2017 are ongoing.
Start Year 2015
Description News broadcast for local TV news in Russia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Project partners Sergei Kirpotin (prof in Tomsk State University) and Svetlana Serikova (Grad student in Umea University) were interviewed for the research they do in the SIWA project. 5:07 min long news broadcast includes footage form field measurements and personal interviews. Broadcasting area for the TV and Radio Company "Luch" compasses approximately 50 000 people.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description News broadcast for regional TV news in Russia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Project partners Jan Karlsson (prof in Umea University) and Sergei Kirpotin (prof in Tomsk State University) were interviewed for the research they do in the SIWA project. 2:30 min long news broadcast (start 2:20, end 4:50) includes footage form field measurements and personal interviews. News were broadcasted in Russian state owned TV and Radio Company "Tomsk" with a wide regional reach.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description News clip on Finnish national TV news broadcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Finnish national broadcasting company (YLE) did a broadcast to national news about permafrost thaw and carbon cycling in Siberia directly related to SIWA research. Broadcast included an interview of Sergei Kirpotin (project partner from Tomsk State University), footage of water sampling at the study sites and information about the significance of our research. The broadcast reached approximately 500 000 - 1000 000 Finnish citizens.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Swedish ambassador visit to the University of Aberdeen 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Swedish Ambassador to The UK, HE Nicola Clase, visited the University on 8th September 2016. Professor Doerthe Tetzlaff was asked to present the SIWA project and the overall research of the Aberdeen hydrologists on "Resilience of water resources under climate change in northern regions". The presentation was extremely well received leading to discussions on the topic of climate change and resilience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015