On the Properties of the Arctic Halocline and Deep Water Masses of the Canada Basin from Nitrate Isotope Ratios

Julie Granger, Daniel Mikhail Sigman, Jonathan Gagnon, Jean Eric Tremblay, Alfonso Mucci

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Nitrogen is a limiting nutrient for primary production in the western Arctic Ocean. Measurements of the nitrogen (15N/14N) and oxygen (18O/16O) isotope ratios of nitrate in the southeastern Beaufort Sea provide insight into biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen in the western Arctic Ocean. Nitrate O isotope ratios in the Pacific halocline evidence a highly regenerated reservoir. Coincident peaks in nutrient concentrations and reduced dissolved oxygen concentrations suggest that nitrate accrues from organic matter remineralization in bottom waters of the Chukchi shelf and that these ventilate the basin predominantly in summer, when isolated from the atmosphere. Preformed nitrate in Pacific Winter Water lacks 18O/16O elevation from nitrate assimilation, contrasting with preformed nitrate in other ocean regions. A reactive N deficit and elevated nitrate N isotope ratios in the Pacific halocline further indicate substantial N loss to coupled nitrification-denitrification in shelf sediments upstream. In the Atlantic Water below, nitrate isotope ratios identify two distinct waters entering the Arctic at Fram Strait, from (1) the surface West Spitsbergen Current, bearing isotopic signatures akin to North Atlantic waters, and (2) deeper inflows of waters ventilated in the Nordic Seas, transporting nitrate O isotope ratios indicative of regenerated nitrate. Poorly ventilated Canada Basin Deep Water shows evidence of nominal accrual of remineralized products, and nitrate isotope ratios suggest an influence of slow benthic denitrification on the sea floor. The observations reveal that shelf processes have a disproportionate influence on tracer properties of the Pacific halocline, while those in Atlantic Water are dominated by processes in the Nordic Seas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5443-5458
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Arctic Ocean
  • halocline
  • nitrate isotopes
  • nutrients
  • remineralization
  • ventilation


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