Interrelation of quality parameters of surface waters in five tidewater glacier coves of King George Island, Antarctica


  • Repeated investigation in unprecedented proximity of 5 glacial fronts in Antarctica
  • Analysis of physical, chemical and biological water quality parameter interrelations
  • Correlations found between glacial meltwater and physicochemical parameter shifts
  • pH values shown rising with glacial meltwater presence
  • Varied biological parameter trends dependent on the distance from the glacial front


For further understanding of glacial meltwater’s (GMW) impacts on marine environments, five coves adjacent to diverse glaciers of King George Island, Antarctica were investigated through surface measurements of water quality parameters. Measurements were conducted 49 times during January, February and March of 2019, with sampling performed in unprecedently close proximity to glacial fronts (< 50 m distance from glacier termini in each cove) to create a unique dataset. Four out of five of the coves were inspected through vertical profiling to show water-column stratification. The findings showed synchronized GMW influence causing decreases of salinity, temperature, and dissolved organic matter contents, combined with increased pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen values. GMW presence was most correlated with dissolved organic matter content (93% of the cases >0.5 correlation noted with either turbidity or salinity) and least correlated with water temperature (from 22% to 77% of the cases with >0.5 correlation, dependent on the cove). In contrast to previous studies, the pH values of seawater infused with GMW were higher than those of the surrounding water. GMW was shown to stay in the boundary surface layer of the water column. Phytoplankton pigment quantities depending on the localization, time and distance from the glacial termini presented varied response to GMW (positive, negative or ambivalent with hotspots of simultaneous high GMW and phytoplankton quantities). The positive response to glacial water input was more often noted in measurements of phycoerythrin (from 0 to 80% of the cases depending on the cove) rather than chlorophyll A (from 0 to 25%) and maximum quantities of both biological pigments were found at a depth of approximately 5-10 m.

Osińska M., Bialik R. J. & Wójcik K. A., in press. Interrelation of quality parameters of surface waters in five tidewater glacier coves of King George Island, Antarctica. Science of The Total Environment. Article (subscription required).

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