Recent studies indicate a second layer of organic matter often accumulates in the lower active layer and upper permafrost in arctic tundra soils as a result of cryoturbation. In this study, cryoturbated organic matter was characterized using a combination of physical size fractionation and modern analytical techniques for elemental composition (C and N), stable isotopes (delta(13) C and delta(15)N), radiocarbon content (Delta(14)C), and molecular fingerprinting (pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, Py-GC/MS). The results indicated that cryoturbated organic matter could be highly bioavailable. Soil organic matter (SOM) associated with fine sand particles was considered to be the organic carbon pool most sensitive to the changing climate. More organic matter is stabilized on clay minerals in arctic tundra soils compared to those in temperate and tropical soils. The bioavailable soluble organic matter extracted from cryoturbated soil was found to have significant long-term effects on carbon cycling. The similar molecular composition between cryoturbated and surface soil organic matter suggests that the vegetation cover has not significantly changed since the early Holocene. Furthermore, the SOM quality in moist acidic tundra was found to be higher than that of wet nonacidic tundra. With thawing permafrost and a deepening of the active layer, cryotrubated organic matter could reenter the biogeochemical cycles in the Arctic, resulting in a positive feedback to climate change.
Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences
White, D. M.
(2009). Chemical and Isotopic Characterization of Size-Fractionated Organic Matter From Cryoturbated Tundra Soils, Northern Alaska. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, 114(G3).
Available at: http://aquila.usm.edu/fac_pubs/1125