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Publicly Available Published by De Gruyter November 23, 2021

Chemical and algological composition of the snow cover at the mouth of the Onega river (White Sea basin)

  • Ekaterina I. Kotova EMAIL logo and Victoria Yu Topchaya

Abstract

In the study, the content and speciation of Mn, Pb, Cd, Zn, Cr, Ni, Co, Cu, and Fe in the snow cover at the mouth of the Onega river (White Sea basin) at the end of the winter periods in 2018, 2019 and 2020 were determined. Winter 2019 year was the snowiest, as the maximum values of the snow cover depth and water equivalent were almost two times higher than in all other years. The total content of suspended matter in the snow cover was 0.2–5.5 μg/L. Increased concentrations of suspended solids were identified near highways. Mn, Cr and Ni were present in the snow cover mainly in their dissolved form, while Fe, Pb and Co were mostly contained as solids. The algological composition of the snow cover was also studied.

Introduction

At the mouth of the Onega river there is the town of Onega, which is a municipal centre. In 20 km from the town there is the Pokrovskoye mine, where they have been mining and producing high-quality non-metallic building materials since more than 30 years ago. The economy of the Onega region is based on timber industry, agriculture and fisheries. The coast of the Onega Bay of the White Sea near the mouth of the Onega river is actively used for recreational purposes. The Onega River is located in the north-west of the Arkhangelsk region, the hydrological cycle of the river supply is of a mixed type with a dominance of snowy. For at least six months, the White Sea catchment area is packed with snow, which is a powerful accumulator of pollutants. When snow melts, they are partly absorbed into soil and partly dissolved in water, which then transports them into water bodies. Snow accumulates a significant amount of suspended particles and dissolved substances from the atmosphere that can be quickly released in the form of an ion pulse [1] during the spring thaw. The composition of the snow cover is one of the factors affecting the hydrochemical regime of a territory. Thus, the snow cover composition can have a significant impact on the state of both, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Knowledge of the snow cover composition makes it possible to estimate the aerogenic influx of pollutants into the territory. One of the sources of environmental pollution in this area is atmospheric transport, including that from the Kola Peninsula [2]. The composition of the snow cover in coastal areas is significantly affected by the sea aerosols [3] which, when entering costal zones, content representatives of aquatic flora. Studies of biota in the snow cover in the region are unsystematic and fragmentary, although recently there has been an increasing interest in its biological component [4], [5], [6]. The aim of the study was to explore chemical and algological composition of the snow cover at the mouth of the Onega river (White Sea basin).

Methodology

Snow sampling at the mouth of the Onega river (Fig. 1) was done in February–March 2018, 2019 and 2020 during the period of the maximum water equivalent in the snow. The samples were taken from plots of a specified area into a plastic container using a plastic sampler from the entire depth of the snow cover, according to the method [7]. Further, in the laboratory the snow was melted at room temperature in the same container.

Fig. 1: 
Snow cover sampling points: 1 – the Kyanda River, 2-Beloe Lake, 2 – Lake Beloye, 3 – Kamenny Stream, 4 – woodland, 5 – crossing the Onega River, 6 – Lake Radnitsa, 7 – Porog village, 8 – Swamp, 9 – Lake Lebyazhye.
Fig. 1:

Snow cover sampling points: 1 – the Kyanda River, 2-Beloe Lake, 2 – Lake Beloye, 3 – Kamenny Stream, 4 – woodland, 5 – crossing the Onega River, 6 – Lake Radnitsa, 7 – Porog village, 8 – Swamp, 9 – Lake Lebyazhye.

Undissolved suspended matter from the snow was collected on filters with a diameter of 47 mm with pores of 0.45 μm by vacuum filtration. The total volume of meltwater passing through the filter was recorded. After filtration, the filters were packed in Petri dishes and dried in an oven at 55 °C. The content of suspended matter in the snow was determined by gravimetry.

Samples of filtrate and samples of the suspended matter deposited on the filters were analysed for the content of water-soluble forms and undissolved particles of heavy metals (Mn, Pb, Cd, Zn, Cr, Ni, Co, Cu, and Fe) by the ICP-MS method (Aurora Elite, Bruker). Deterioration of the filters was carried out by acid dissolution in an autoclave microwave pressure sample digestion system (TOPwave, Analytikjena).

To identify phytoplankton in the snow, the samples were melted and concentrated by sedimentation. Fixation was done with 40 % formalin. Desk study of samples, determination of the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of phytoplankton were carried out using standard methods [8, 9]. The taxonomic affiliation of organisms was done in accordance with the global database AlgaBase [10]. Photos of phytoplankton were taken at 400× magnification.

Results and discussion

At the mouth of the Onega river the state of snow cover was in the third decade of November–early December and started melting in March. Snowfall conditions during the given winter seasons varied. According to the observations at the Onega weather station, the winter 2019 year was the snowiest of all. The snow cover reached its maximum height at the end of February 2019, when the average value was 76 cm. The maximum water equivalent of the snow was 203 mm. In winter periods 2018 and 2020 years the highest values of the snow depth (42–49 cm) were observed in the second half of March. The maximum water equivalent of the snow reached 124–128 mm. The snow density during the winter period in all years varied in the ranged from 0.18 g/cm3 to 0.34 g/cm3.

During the winter period in all years at sampling points located far from settlements (points 1, 8, 9), the content of undissolved particles in the snow cover was minimal – 1.3–1.9 μg/L, which is close to the background values for the Arctic territories. For example, in the winter 2004 year, near the North Pole, the concentration of insoluble matter in the snow was 0.2–0.7 μg/L [7]. Increased concentrations of suspended particles were determined near highways – 5.1–5.5 μg/L (points 4, 5).

The values of heavy metal concentrations in the snow cover for all years research are presented in Table 1. The composition of the water-soluble and insoluble fractions of the snow cover had a large spatial heterogeneity.

Table 1:

The content of heavy metals in the snow cover at the mouth of the Onega river, μg/L.

Chemical element Form
Dissolved Suspended
Mn 6.0 (5.3)

0.68–19.8
3.7 (1.6)

0.16–42.8
Pb 0.07 (0.06)

<0.001–0.52
0.40 (0.16)

<0.001–1.6
Zn 0.79 (0.16)

<0.001–3.2
0.79 (0.66)

<0.001–3.0
Cr 1.4 (1.1)

<0.001–3.2
0.07 (0.05)

<0.001–0.27
Ni 0.57 (0.34)

0.10–2.3
0.16 (0.15)

<0.001–0.66
Cu 0.14 (0.12)

<0.001–0.43
0.21 (0.21)

0.05–0.48
Fe 2.8 (1.8)

<0.001–8.2
135 (123)

8.5–260
Co <0.01 (<0.01)

<0.001 – 0.012
0.01 (<0.01)

<0.001 – 0.085
  1. The top row is the mean value (median), the bottom row is the minimum − maximum values.

According to the data obtained, Mn, Cr, and Ni are present in the snow cover mainly in their dissolved form, while Fe, Pb and Co are mostly contained as solids.

The dissolved Cd in the snow cover was determined only in two samples taken in 2019 (point 3, 4). An increased content of Cd (up to 0.04 μg/L) in its undissolved form was observed in 2018 and 2019 years at point 4. The same sampling point also demonstrated a high content of undissolved Pb (up to 1.5 μg/L). The snow cover of 2020 year was characterized by the absence of water-soluble forms of Pb, Zn, Co, and Cu, but a high content of dissolved Cr (1.1–3.2 μg/L) and Fe (up to 8.2 μg/L). That year, Co was also absent as suspended matter.

A high content of Mn (19.69 μg/L in dissolved form and 42.8 mg/L in undissolved form) and Zn (2.9 μg/L in undissolved form) was determined in the winter of 2019 year at the river crossing site in the town of Onega (point 5).

Snow samples taken on the coast of the Onega Bay of the White Sea contained 10 phytoplankton taxa (species and supraspecific taxa) belonging to Bacillariophyta, Chlorophyta, Ochrophyta (Table 2). The total quantity of phytoplankton was 3.34 thousand cells/L.

Table 2:

Algoflora of the snow cover on the coast of the Onega Bay of the White Sea.

Taxonomic group, specie Division Quantity, cells/L
Pennales Bacillariophyta 1
Centrales Bacillariophyta 0.5
Aulacoseira granulata (Ehrenberg) Simonsen, 1979 Bacillariophyta 1
Melosira arctica Dickie, 1852 Bacillariophyta 0.5
Navicula sp. Bacillariophyta 0.1
Nitzschia longissima (Brébisson) Ralfs, 1861 Bacillariophyta 0.03
Skeletonema costatum (Greville) Cleve, 1873 Bacillariophyta 0.09
Pediastrum sp. Chlorophyta 0.03
Scenedesmus sp. Chlorophyta 0.06
Distephanus speculum f. fenestratus S. Locker & E. Martini 0 Ochrophyta 0.03

Snow samples contained typical representatives of phytoplankton of the northern seas – Melosira arctica (Fig. 2), Nitzschia longissima, Skeletonema costatum, Distephanus speculum, as well as inhabitants of freshwater ecosystems – Pediastrum sp. and Scenedesmus sp.

Fig. 2: 
Photos of phytoplankton representatives found in the snow of the Onega Bay of the White Sea: a) Melosira arctica, b) Navicula sp.
Fig. 2:

Photos of phytoplankton representatives found in the snow of the Onega Bay of the White Sea: a) Melosira arctica, b) Navicula sp.

In comparison with the snow samples taken on the coast of the Dvina Bay of the White Sea [11], the algological composition of the snow on the coast of the Onega Bay of the White Sea is richer both in qualitative and quantitative terms. The intensive vegetation of microalgae in winter on the Onega Bay coast was possible due to the access of sunlight through numerous ice cracks, which could be up to 10 cm wide, and puddles formed on the ice surface. Those puddles can be tens of meters long, 1–3 m wide and 5–30 cm deep. They are formed due to the displacement of water onto the ice surface during the tide and do not have time to freeze during the semidiurnal tidal cycle.

Conclusions

The chemical composition of the snow cover at the mouth of the Onega River is characterized by significant space and time heterogeneity. Emissions from vehicles can be considered the main source of pollution. In point 4 located near highways, in the snow cover 2019 year the dissolved Cd and increased content of Cd (up to 0.04 μg/L) and Pb (up to 1.5 μg/L) in its undissolved form was determined. As well as increased concentrations of undissolved particles in the snow cover in this point (5.1–5.5 μg/L) were determined too. During the winter period in all years metals Mn, Cr and Ni were present in the snow cover mainly in their dissolved form, while Fe, Pb and Co were mostly contained as solids. In some years, the content of metals may be below the detection limit, when it’s impossible to determine their presence even by concentration of samples. The algological composition of the snow on the coast of the Onega Bay of the White Sea is richer in both qualitative and quantitative terms.


Article note:

Snow cover, atmospheric precipitation, aerosols: chemistry and climate: reports of the III Baikal international scientific conference endorsed by IUPAC (March 23–27, 2020).



Corresponding author: Ekaterina I. Kotova, P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences, 36, Nahimovskiy Prospect, Moscow 117997, Russia, e-mail:

Funding source: Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences

Award Identifier / Grant number: 0128-2021-0006

  1. Research funding: The study was carried out in the framework of the thematic state assignment No. 0128-2021-0006.

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Published Online: 2021-11-23
Published in Print: 2022-03-28

© 2021 IUPAC & De Gruyter. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For more information, please visit: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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