Soil organic carbon in permafrost terrain: Total storage, landscape distribution and environmental controls
2009 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
High latitude terrestrial ecosystems are considered key components in the global carbon (C) cycle and hold large reservoirs of soil organic carbon (SOC). To a large degree, this SOC is stored in permafrost soils and peatlands and is vulnerable to remobilization under future global warming and permafrost thawing. Recent studies estimate that soils in permafrost regions store SOC equivalent to ~ 1.5 times the global atmospheric C pool. Ecosystems and soils interact with the atmospheric C pool; photosynthesis sequesters CO2 into SOC whereas microbial decomposition releases C based trace gases (mainly CO2 and CH4). Because of the radiative greenhouse properties of these gases, soil processes also feedback on the global climate system. Recent studies report increases in permafrost temperatures and under future climate change scenarios permafrost environments stand to undergo further changes. As permafrost thaws and surface hydrology changes, there is concern that periglacial tundra and peatland ecosystems will switch from being sinks for atmospheric C into sources, creating a potential for positive feedbacks on global warming. The magnitude of change in C fluxes resulting from climate warming and permafrost thawing depends on the remobilization processes affecting SOC stores, the size of SOC stores that become available for remobilization and the lability of the SOM compounds in these stores. While the large size and potential vulnerability of arctic SOC reservoirs is recognized, detailed knowledge on the landscape partitioning and quality of this SOC is poor.
Paper I of this thesis assesses landscape allocation and environmental gradients in SOC storage in the Usa River Basin lowlands of northeastern European Russia. The Russian study area ranges from taiga region with isolated permafrost patches to tundra region with nearly continuous permafrost. Paper II of this thesis investigates total storage, landscape partitioning and quality of soil organic carbon (SOC) in the tundra and continuous permafrost terrain of the Tulemalu Lake area in the Central Canadian Arctic. Databases on soil properties, permafrost, vegetation and modeled climate are compiled and analyzed. Mean SOC storage in the two study regions is 38.3 kg C m-2 for the Usa River Basin and 33.8 kg C m-2 for Tulemalu Lake (for 1m depth in mineral soils and total depth of peat deposits). Both estimates are higher than previous estimates for the same study areas. Multivariate gradient analyses from the Usa Basin show that local vegetation and permafrost are strong predictors of soil chemical properties, overshadowing the effect of climate variables. The results highlight the importance of peatlands, particularly bogs, in bulk SOC storage in all types of permafrost terrain. In the Tulemalu Lake area significant amounts of SOC is stored in cryoturbated soil horizons with C/N ratios indicating a relatively low degree of decomposition. As this pool of cryoturbated SOC is mainly stored in the active layer, no dramatic increases in remobilization are expected following a deepening of the active layer. However, recent studies have demonstrated the importance of SOC storage in deep (>1m) cryoturbated horizons. Perennially frozen peat deposits in permafrost bogs constitute the main vulnerable SOC pool in the investigated regions. Remobilization of this frozen C can occur through gradual but widespread deepening of the active layer with subsequent talik formation, or through more rapid but localized thermokarst erosion.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. , 24 p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-31249OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-31249DiVA: diva2:275889
2009-06-08, 00:00 (English)
Boelhouwers, Jan, Associate professor
Kuhry, Peter, Professor
List of papers