Effect of thaw depth on fluxes of CO₂ and CH₄ in manipulated Arctic coastal tundra of Barrow, Alaska.

Research paper by Yongwon Y Kim

Indexed on: 03 Dec '14Published on: 03 Dec '14Published in: Science of the Total Environment


Changes in CO₂ and CH₄ emissions represent one of the most significant consequences of drastic climate change in the Arctic, by way of thawing permafrost, a deepened active layer, and decline of thermokarst lakes in the Arctic. This study conducted flux-measurements of CO₂ and CH₄, as well as environmental factors such as temperature, moisture, and thaw depth, as part of a water table manipulation experiment in the Arctic coastal plain tundra of Barrow, Alaska during autumn. The manipulation treatment consisted of draining, controlling, and flooding treated sections by adjusting standing water. Inundation increased CH₄ emission by a factor of 4.3 compared to non-flooded sections. This may be due to the decomposition of organic matter under a limited oxygen environment by saturated standing water. On the other hand, CO₂ emission in the dry section was 3.9-fold higher than in others. CH₄ emission tends to increase with deeper thaw depth, which strongly depends on the water table; however, CO₂ emission is not related to thaw depth. Quotients of global warming potential (GWPCO₂) (dry/control) and GWPCH₄ (wet/control) increased by 464 and 148%, respectively, and GWPCH₄ (dry/control) declined by 66%. This suggests that CO₂ emission in a drained section is enhanced by soil and ecosystem respiration, and CH₄ emission in a flooded area is likely stimulated under an anoxic environment by inundated standing water. The findings of this manipulation experiment during the autumn period demonstrate the different production processes of CO₂ and CH₄, as well as different global warming potentials, coupled with change in thaw depth. Thus the outcomes imply that the expansion of tundra lakes leads the enhancement of CH₄ release, and the disappearance of the lakes causes the stimulated CO₂ production in response to the Arctic climate change.