Characterisation of the Permafrost Carbon Pool


Correspondence to: P. Kuhry, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:


The current estimate of the soil organic carbon (SOC) pool in the northern permafrost region of 1672 Petagrams (Pg) C is much larger than previously reported and needs to be incorporated in global soil carbon (C) inventories. The Northern Circumpolar Soil Carbon Database (NCSCD), extended to include the range 0–300 cm, is now available online for wider use by the scientific community. An important future aim is to provide quantitative uncertainty ranges for C pool estimates. Recent studies have greatly improved understanding of the regional patterns, landscape distribution and vertical (soil horizon) partitioning of the permafrost C pool in the upper 3 m of soils. However, the deeper C pools in unconsolidated Quaternary deposits need to be better constrained. A general lability classification of the permafrost C pool should be developed to address potential C release upon thaw. The permafrost C pool and its dynamics are beginning to be incorporated into Earth System models, although key periglacial processes such as thermokarst still need to be properly represented to obtain a better quantification of the full permafrost C feedback on global climate change. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.