The soluble ion content of the active layer and near-surface permafrost was determined at 41 sites in the Mackenzie delta region, Northwest Territories, Canada. In delta soils, Ca2+ and Mg2+ are the dominant soluble cations, but the quantity and relative abundance of Na+ increase with proximity to the Beaufort Sea coast. Soils beneath frequently flooded surfaces are ion rich in comparison with ground above the level of decadal flooding. Within a terrain type, near-surface permafrost soil solute concentrations are similar between paired cores spaced <1 m apart, but at greater distances (cores spaced 3–13 m apart), solute concentrations are significantly different. Comparatively low soil solute concentrations in old upland surfaces near Inuvik may be a result of progressive removal of soluble materials from the active layer and permafrost during periods of deeper thaw. In sandy silt alluvium, solutes excluded during downward freezing may accumulate at the base of the active layer and be sequestered by a rising permafrost table. At sites with finer grained clayey silts, the correspondence between zones of ice and cation enrichment indicates coupled movement of water and solutes during freeze-back of the active layer and development of aggradational ice. Solute enrichment of near-surface permafrost is greatest at fine-grained ice-rich alluvial sites, where mean concentrations in permafrost are up to 7.5 times greater than those in the active layer.

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