Mobilization Pathways of Organic Carbon From Permafrost to Arctic Rivers In a Changing Climate

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Marine Science


[1] Arctic warming may cause the release of vast amounts of soil organic carbon (SOC) from permafrost, which will manifest itself in the fluxes and composition of organic carbon in northern rivers and Arctic coastal regions. To elucidate the transport pathways of SOC, radiocarbon composition was measured for dissolved organic carbon (DOC), particulate organic carbon (POC), sediments and SOC from the Mackenzie, Sagavanirktok, and Yukon river basins, and soil leaching experiments were conducted. The radiocarbon ages of riverine suspended POC and sediments ranged from 4430 to similar to 7970 yr BP, while DOC was much younger (390-1440 yr BP) except samples from the Sag River. Soil leaching experiments released <1% of SOC as DOC. The decoupling in age and partitioning between POC and DOC indicates that POC in these rivers is dominated by old SOC derived from permafrost thawing and river-bank erosion in contrast to DOC, which is more readily influenced by modern terrestrial biomass, especially in large river basins which also drain subarctic regions. These observations imply that melting of permafrost will be manifest in the age and amounts of POC in arctic rivers whereas change in DOC will reflect altered plant ecology.

Publication Title

Geophysical Research Letters





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