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Methane production as key to the greenhouse gas budget of thawing permafrost
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry.
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Number of Authors: 52018 (English)In: Nature Climate Change, ISSN 1758-678X, E-ISSN 1758-6798, Vol. 8, no 4, p. 309-312Article in journal, Letter (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Permafrost thaw liberates frozen organic carbon, which is decomposed into carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). The release of these greenhouse gases (GHGs) forms a positive feedback to atmospheric CO2 and CH4 concentrations and accelerates climate change(1,2). Current studies report a minor importance of CH4 production in water-saturated (anoxic) permafrost soils(3-6) and a stronger permafrost carbon-climate feedback from drained (oxic) soils(1,7). Here we show through seven-year laboratory incubations that equal amounts of CO2 and CH4 are formed in thawing permafrost under anoxic conditions after stable CH4-producing microbial communities have established. Less permafrost carbon was mineralized under anoxic conditions but more CO2-carbon equivalents (CO2Ce) were formed than under oxic conditions when the higher global warming potential (GWP) of CH4 is taken into account(8). A model of organic carbon decomposition, calibrated with the observed decomposition data, predicts a higher loss of permafrost carbon under oxic conditions (113 +/- 58 g CO2-C kgC(-1) (kgC, kilograms of carbon)) by 2100, but a twice as high production of CO2-Ce (241 +/- 138 g CO2-Ce kgC(-1)) under anoxic conditions. These findings challenge the view of a stronger permafrost carbon-climate feedback from drained soils1,7 and emphasize the importance of CH4 production in thawing permafrost on climate-relevant timescales.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 8, no 4, p. 309-312
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Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Social and Economic Geography
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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-156052DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0095-zISI: 000429194600017OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-156052DiVA, id: diva2:1210074
Available from: 2018-05-25 Created: 2018-05-25 Last updated: 2018-05-25Bibliographically approved

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