Sonia A. Nagorski, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Geology

Recent Submissions

  • Effects of landslides on terrestrial carbon stocks with a coupled geomorphic-biologic model: Southeast Alaska, United States

    Booth, A. M.; Buma, B.; Nagorski, Sonia (Wiley, 2023-06-16)
    Landslides influence the global carbon (C) cycle by facilitating transfer of terrestrial C in biomass and soils to offshore depocenters and redistributing C within the landscape, affecting the terrestrial C reservoir itself. How landslides affect terrestrial C stocks is rarely quantified, so we derive a model that couples stochastic landslides with terrestrial C dynamics, calibrated to temperate rainforests in southeast Alaska, United States. Modeled landslides episodically transfer C from scars to deposits and destroy living biomass. After a landslide, total C stocks on the scar recover, while those on the deposit either increase (in the case of living biomass) or decrease while remaining higher than if no landslide had occurred (in the case of dead biomass and soil C). Specifically, modeling landslides in a 29.9 km2 watershed at the observed rate of 0.004 landslides km−2 yr−1 decreases average living biomass C density by 0.9 tC ha−1 (a relative amount of 0.4%), increases dead biomass C by 0.3 tC ha−1 (0.6%), and increases soil C by 3.4 tC ha−1 (0.8%) relative to a base case with no landslides. The net effect is a small increase in total terrestrial C stocks of 2.8 tC ha−1 (0.4%). The size of this boost increases with landslide frequency, reaching 6.5% at a frequency of 0.1 landslides km−2 yr−1. If similar dynamics occur in other landslide-prone regions of the globe, landslides should be a net C sink and a natural buffer against increasing atmospheric CO2 levels, which are forecast to increase landslide-triggering precipitation events.
  • The role of glacier erosion in riverine particulate organic carbon export

    Behnke, Megan; Fellman, Jason B.; Nagorski, Sonia; Spencer, Robert G. M.; Hood, Eran (American Geophysical Union, 2023-11-01)
    Biospheric particulate organic carbon (POCbio) burial and rock petrogenic particulate organic carbon (POCpetro) oxidation are opposing long-term controls on the global carbon cycle, sequestering and releasing carbon, respectively. Here, we examine how watershed glacierization impacts the POC source by assessing the concentration and isotopic composition (δ13C and Δ14C) of POC exported from four watersheds with 0%–49% glacier coverage across a melt season in Southeast Alaska. We used two mixing models (age-weight percent and dual carbon isotope) to calculate concentrations of POCbio and POCpetro within the bulk POC pool. The fraction POCpetro contribution was highest in the heavily glacierized watershed (age-weight percent: 0.39 ± 0.05; dual isotope: 0.42 (0.37–0.47)), demonstrating a glacial source of POCpetro to fjords. POCpetro was mobilized via glacier melt and subglacial flow, while POCbio was largely flushed from the non-glacierized landscape by rain. Flow normalized POCbio concentrations exceeded POCpetro concentrations for all streams, but surprisingly were highest in the heavily glacierized watershed (mean: 0.70 mgL−1; range 0.16–1.41 mgL−1), suggesting that glacier rivers can contribute substantial POCbio to coastal waters. Further, the most heavily glacierized watershed had the highest sediment concentration (207 mgL−1; 7–708 mgL−1), and thus may facilitate long-term POCbio protection via sediment burial in glacier-dominated fjords. Our results suggest that continuing glacial retreat will decrease POC concentrations and increase POCbio:POCpetro exported from currently glacierized watersheds. Glacier retreat may thus decrease carbon storage in marine sediments and provide a positive feedback mechanism to climate change that is sensitive to future changes in POCpetro oxidation.
  • Risks of mining to salmonid-bearing watersheds

    Sergeant, Christopher, A.; Sexton, Erin K.; Moore, Jonathan W.; Westwood, Alana R.; Nagorski, Sonia; Ebersole, Joseph L.; Chambers, David M.; O'Neal, Sarah L.; Malison, Rachel L.; Hauer, F. Richard; et al. (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2022-07-01)
    Mining provides resources for people but can pose risks to ecosystems that support cultural keystone species. Our synthesis reviews relevant aspects of mining operations, describes the ecology of salmonid-bearing watersheds in northwestern North America, and compiles the impacts of metal and coal extraction on salmonids and their habitat. We conservatively estimate that this region encompasses nearly 4000 past producing mines, with present-day operations ranging from small placer sites to massive open-pit projects that annually mine more than 118 million metric tons of earth. Despite impact assessments that are intended to evaluate risk and inform mitigation, mines continue to harm salmonid-bearing watersheds via pathways such as toxic contaminants, stream channel burial, and flow regime alteration. To better maintain watershed processes that benefit salmonids, we highlight key windows during the mining governance life cycle for science to guide policy by more accurately accounting for stressor complexity, cumulative effects, and future environmental change.