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Keywords:

  • dissolved organic carbon;
  • hydrology;
  • peatlands;
  • permafrost;
  • subarctic;
  • wetlands

[1] Loss of permafrost can modify the export and composition of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from subarctic peatlands by changing the hydrological regime and altering ecosystem structure and function. In Stordalen peatland complex (68.20°N, 19.03°E) recent permafrost thaw has caused a conversion of the palsa parts (an ombrotrophic, permafrost affected peatland type) into both bog and flow-through fen peatland types. Within the Stordalen peatland complex we estimated the DOC mass balance and assessed DOC composition for one palsa catchment, one bog catchment and two fens in order to assess the possible impacts of permafrost thaw on peatland complex DOC export. The fens were found to have higher net DOC export rates at 8.1 and 7.0 g C m−2 yr−1 than either the palsa or bog catchments, at 3.2 and 3.5 g C m−2 yr−1, respectively. The snowmelt period was more important for the annual DOC export from the palsa and bog catchments than for the fens, representing 65–100% of the palsa and bog catchment exports while 35–60% of the net fen exports. DOC exported from the palsa and bog catchments were characterized by high aromaticity, molecular weight, C/N ratios, and contained DOC of primarily terrestrial origin. The fens exhibited a shift in DOC composition between inflows and outflows that suggested that fens act as catchment locations for degradation and transformation of DOC. Permafrost thaw can thus alter the magnitude, timing, and composition of subarctic peatland DOC exports due to interactions among peatland type, permafrost conditions, and hydrological setting.