Exploring former subglacial Hodgson Lake, Antarctica Paper I: site description, geomorphology and limnology
At retreating margins of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, there are a number of locations where former subglacial lakes are emerging from under the ice but remain perennially ice-covered. This paper presents a site description of one of these lakes, Hodgson Lake, situated on southern Alexander Island, west of the Antarctic Peninsula (72° 00.549′ S, 68° 27.708′ W). First, we describe the physical setting of the lake using topographic and geomorphological maps. Second, we determine local ice sheet deglaciation history and the emergence of the lake using cosmogenic isotope dating of glacial erratics cross-referenced to optically stimulated luminescence dating of raised lake shoreline deltas formed during ice recession. Third we describe the physical and chemical limnology including the biological and biogeochemical evidence for life. Results show that the ice mass over Hodgson Lake was at least 295 m thick at 13.5 ka and has progressively thinned through the Holocene with the lake ice cover reaching an altitude of c. 6.5 m above the present lake ice sometime after 4.6 ka. Thick perennial ice cover persists over the lake today and the waters have remained isolated from the atmosphere with a chemical composition consistent with subglacial melting of catchment ice. The lake is ultra-oligotrophic with nutrient concentrations within the ranges of those found in the accreted lake ice of subglacial Lake Vostok. Total organic carbon and dissolved organic carbon are present, but at lower concentrations than typically recorded in continental rain. No organisms and no pigments associated with photosynthetic or bacterial activity were detected in the water column using light microscopy and high performance liquid chromatography. Increases in SO4 and cation concentrations at depth and declines in O2 provide some evidence for sulphide oxidation and very minor bacterial demand upon O2 that result in small, perhaps undetectable changes in the carbon biogeochemistry. However, in general the chemical markers of life are inconclusive and abiotic processes such as the diffusion of pore waters into the lake from its benthic sediments are far more likely to be responsible for the increased concentrations of ions at depth. The next phases of this research will be to carry out a palaeolimnological study of the lake sediments to see what they can reveal about the history of the lake in its subglacial state, and a detailed molecular analysis of the lake water and benthos to determine what forms of life are present. Combined, these studies will test some of the methodologies that will be used to explore deep continental subglacial lakes
Authors: Hodgson, Dominic A. ORCID record for Dominic A. Hodgson, Roberts, Stephen J. ORCID record for Stephen J. Roberts, Bentley, Michael J., Smith, James A. ORCID record for James A. Smith, Johnson, Joanne S. ORCID record for Joanne S. Johnson, Verleyen, Elie, Vyverman, Wim, Hodson, Andy J., Leng, Melanie J., Cziferszky, Andreas
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