Assessing the utility of barium isotopes to trace Eurasian riverine freshwater inputs to the Arctic Ocean

Luke Bridgestock*, Joseph Nathan, Yu-Te Hsieh, Phil Holdship, Don Porcelli, Per S. Andersson, Gideon M. Henderson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Tracing riverine freshwater transport pathways within the Arctic Ocean is key to understanding changes in Arctic Ocean freshwater inventories. Dissolved Ba concentrations have been used in this capacity but are compromised by non-conservative processes. To assess the potential for Ba isotopes to provide insights into the impact of such processes on Arctic Ocean dissolved Ba inventories, Ba concentration and isotope data for surface seawater samples from the Siberian Shelf and Bering Sea/Strait are presented. These samples capture the mixing of riverine freshwater discharged by the rivers Yenisey, Lena and Ob, with Atlantic and Pacific derived seawater, which are traced by relationships between salinity, Ba concentration and δ138/134Ba. The δ138/134Ba of net river inputs, following modification by estuarine processes, are constrained to be 0.31 ± 0.04‰, 0.20 ± 0.06‰ and 0.23 ± 0.04‰, for the rivers Yenisey, Lena and Ob respectively. These values are used to estimate an average δ138/134Ba for Eurasian river freshwater input to the Arctic Ocean of 0.23 ± 0.04‰. The Ba concentration and δ138/134Ba of Lena River freshwater transported across the Laptev Sea are modified by non-conservative processes. These non-conservative processes do not result in distinctive modification of dissolved Ba concentration-δ138/134Ba mixing relationships between Eurasian riverine freshwater and Arctic seawater, which unfortunately limits the potential of Ba isotopes to improve tracing riverine freshwater sources in the central Arctic Ocean basins using dissolved Ba inventories. More generally the results of this study help advance understanding of Ba isotope cycling in the environment and their development as an emerging tracer of marine processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104029
Number of pages13
JournalMarine Chemistry
Early online date2 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2021


  • Ba isotopes
  • Arctic Ocean freshwater
  • Marine Ba cycle
  • Estuarine Ba cycling


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