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Volatile emissions from thawing permafrost soils are influenced by meltwater drainage conditions

Journal article
Authors Magnus Kramshøj
Christian N. Albers
Sarah H. Svendsen
Mats P. Björkman
Frida Lindwall
Robert G. Björk
Riikka Rinnan
Published in Global Change Biology
Volume 25
Issue 5
Pages 1704-1716
ISSN 13541013
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 1704-1716
Language en
Keywords Arctic, biogenic volatile organic compounds, climate change, gas fluxes, meltwater drainage, permafrost, soil ecology, tundra
Subject categories Terrestrial ecology


© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Vast amounts of carbon are bound in both active layer and permafrost soils in the Arctic. As a consequence of climate warming, the depth of the active layer is increasing in size and permafrost soils are thawing. We hypothesize that pulses of biogenic volatile organic compounds are released from the near-surface active layer during spring, and during late summer season from thawing permafrost, while the subsequent biogeochemical processes occurring in thawed soils also lead to emissions. Biogenic volatile organic compounds are reactive gases that have both negative and positive climate forcing impacts when introduced to the Arctic atmosphere, and the knowledge of their emission magnitude and pattern is necessary to construct reliable climate models. However, it is unclear how different ecosystems and environmental factors such as drainage conditions upon permafrost thaw affect the emission and compound composition. Here we show that incubations of frozen B horizon of the active layer and permafrost soils collected from a High Arctic heath and fen release a range of biogenic volatile organic compounds upon thaw and during subsequent incubation experiments at temperatures of 10°C and 20°C. Meltwater drainage in the fen soils increased emission rates nine times, while having no effect in the drier heath soils. Emissions generally increased with temperature, and emission profiles for the fen soils were dominated by benzenoids and alkanes, while benzenoids, ketones, and alcohols dominated in heath soils. Our results emphasize that future changes affecting the drainage conditions of the Arctic tundra will have a large influence on volatile emissions from thawing permafrost soils – particularly in wetland/fen areas.

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