Geophysical Research Letters

Selective preservation of old organic carbon fluvially released from sub-Arctic soils

Authors

  • Jorien E. Vonk,

    1. Department of Applied Environmental Science and Bert Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Bart E. van Dongen,

    1. Department of Applied Environmental Science and Bert Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
    2. Now at School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.
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  • Örjan Gustafsson

    1. Department of Applied Environmental Science and Bert Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
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Abstract

[1] Amplified climate warming in the Arctic may cause thaw-remobilization of its large soil organic carbon (SOC) pool. Here we assess the remobilization and preservation of old SOC by the watershed-integrated radiocarbon signature of molecular SOC markers released from northernmost Scandinavia. The radiocarbon analyses revealed a remarkable fractionation for identical vascular plant markers (∼420‰ or ∼6000 14C years) upon settling from surface water to the underlying sediments. From this, we infer fluvial export of two SOC pools; a young surface peat component, and an old deep mineral soil component. The young pool exists as an easily degradable humic suspension, while the old pool is matrix protected from degradation and ballasted for preferential settling. The two soil types with highest OC in Arctic permafrost evidently exhibit different susceptibilities to degradation. Hence, a significant part of the thaw-released OC may simply be fluvially relocated to sediments instead of being emitted to the atmosphere.

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