Arctic ecosystems are changing in response to recent rapid warming, but the synergistic effects of other environmental drivers, such as moisture and atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition, are difficult to discern due to limited monitoring records. Here we use geochemical analyses of 210Pb-dated lake-sediment cores from the North Slope of Alaska to show that changes in landscape nutrient dynamics started over 130 years ago. Lake carbon burial doubled between 1880 and the late-1990s, while current rates (~10 g C m−2 yr−1) represent about half the CO2 emission rate for tundra lakes. Lake C burial reflects increased aquatic production, stimulated initially by nutrients from terrestrial ecosystems due to late-19th century moisture-driven changes in soil microbial processes and, more recently, by atmospheric reactive N deposition. These results highlight the integrated response of Arctic carbon cycling to global environmental stressors and the degree to which C–N linkages were altered prior to post-1950 regional warming.