Quantity and quality of soil organic matter in permafrost terrain
Sammanfattning: High latitude terrestrial ecosystems are considered key components in the global carbon (C) cycle and hold large reservoirs of soil organic carbon (SOC). Much of this is stored as soil organic matter (SOM) in permafrost soils and peat deposits and is vulnerable to remobilization under future global warming. While the large size and potential vulnerability of arctic SOM reservoirs is recognized, detailed knowledge on its landscape partitioning and quality is poor. This thesis describes total storage, landscape partitioning and lability of SOM stored in permafrost areas of Canada and Russia. Detailed studies of SOC partitioning highlight the importance of especially permafrost peatlands, but also of O-horizons in moist tundra soils and cryoturbated soil horizons. A general characterization of SOM in an area of discontinuous permafrost shows that >70% of the SOC in the landscape is stored in SOM with a low degree of decomposition. Projections of permafrost thaw predict that the amount of SOC stored in the active layer of permafrost soils in this area could double by the end of this century. A lateral expansion of current thermokarst lakes by 30 m would expose comparable amounts of SOC to degradation. The results from this thesis have demonstrated the value of high-resolution studies of SOC storage. It is found that peat plateaus, common in the sporadic and discontinuous permafrost zones, store large quantities of labile SOM and may be highly susceptible to permafrost degradation, especially thermokarst, under future climate warming. Large quantities of labile SOM is also stored in cryoturbated soil horizons which may be affected by active layer warming and deepening. The current upscaling methodology is statistically evaluated and recommendations are given for the design of future studies. To accurately predict responses of periglacial C pools to a warming climate detailed studies of SOC storage and partitioning in different periglacial landscapes are needed.
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