Research Topic

Novel Isotope Systems and Biogeochemical Cycling During Cryospheric Weathering in Polar Environments

About this Research Topic

Cryospheric weathering processes in polar regions, including permafrost, subglacial and proglacial environments, play a key role in carbon cycling within the Earth system. Chemical weathering of silicate, carbonate and sulfide minerals releases cations and anions that can consume (or release) atmospheric carbon dioxide, and transport significant quantities of biologically important nutrients (such as phosphorous, iron and silicon) to the oceans.

Climate-driven changes in permafrost thaw and glacial melt rate could drive large changes in weathering regimes in polar environments. This will significantly impact the input of suspended sediment and solutes into the oceans, which will influence marine biological production and atmospheric carbon drawdown.

Studying cryospheric weathering processes is challenging as a result of sampling and logistical difficulties associated with the harsh and remote nature of these environments. Polar regions exhibit large spatial variations in glacial cover, permafrost extent, the types of bedrock being weathered, and biological activity. This is further complicated by temporal variations throughout the glacial melt and permafrost thaw season. Additionally, land-sea interactions occur over a wide range of scales, and vary both spatially and temporally. Quantifying the weathering fluxes will significantly improve our understanding of how climate warming-induced changes in polar regions influences freshwater -marine coupling and the controls on the biogeochemical cycling of elements and nutrients in high-latitude environments.

Isotope geochemistry utilises changes in the relative abundance of different isotopes due to physical, chemical and biological reactions. It is possible to use isotopic ratios to trace weathering and biological processes in nature, and how these processes impact atmospheric CO2, and ultimately climate, in high-latitude environments and the "third pole". This special issue will be focused on using novel major and trace element isotopes to quantify the biogeochemical cycling during cryospheric weathering in high-latitude and altitude environments, and will present the current knowledge, and outstanding questions and future directions in this field. We will welcome original research articles, as well as reviews and perspectives.

Cover Image was taken in Alaska by Topic Editor Sophie Opfergelt.


Keywords: Isotope geochemistry, weathering, glaciers, ice, permafrost, biogeochemistry


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Cryospheric weathering processes in polar regions, including permafrost, subglacial and proglacial environments, play a key role in carbon cycling within the Earth system. Chemical weathering of silicate, carbonate and sulfide minerals releases cations and anions that can consume (or release) atmospheric carbon dioxide, and transport significant quantities of biologically important nutrients (such as phosphorous, iron and silicon) to the oceans.

Climate-driven changes in permafrost thaw and glacial melt rate could drive large changes in weathering regimes in polar environments. This will significantly impact the input of suspended sediment and solutes into the oceans, which will influence marine biological production and atmospheric carbon drawdown.

Studying cryospheric weathering processes is challenging as a result of sampling and logistical difficulties associated with the harsh and remote nature of these environments. Polar regions exhibit large spatial variations in glacial cover, permafrost extent, the types of bedrock being weathered, and biological activity. This is further complicated by temporal variations throughout the glacial melt and permafrost thaw season. Additionally, land-sea interactions occur over a wide range of scales, and vary both spatially and temporally. Quantifying the weathering fluxes will significantly improve our understanding of how climate warming-induced changes in polar regions influences freshwater -marine coupling and the controls on the biogeochemical cycling of elements and nutrients in high-latitude environments.

Isotope geochemistry utilises changes in the relative abundance of different isotopes due to physical, chemical and biological reactions. It is possible to use isotopic ratios to trace weathering and biological processes in nature, and how these processes impact atmospheric CO2, and ultimately climate, in high-latitude environments and the "third pole". This special issue will be focused on using novel major and trace element isotopes to quantify the biogeochemical cycling during cryospheric weathering in high-latitude and altitude environments, and will present the current knowledge, and outstanding questions and future directions in this field. We will welcome original research articles, as well as reviews and perspectives.

Cover Image was taken in Alaska by Topic Editor Sophie Opfergelt.


Keywords: Isotope geochemistry, weathering, glaciers, ice, permafrost, biogeochemistry


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

15 October 2019 Abstract
15 February 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 October 2019 Abstract
15 February 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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