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Title: Pathways to Carbon Liberation: A Systems Approach to Understanding Carbon Transformations and Losses from Thawing Permafrost

Abstract

Our objective in this project was to discover how microbial communities mediate the fate of carbon in thawing permafrost under climate change. We proposed a systems approach integrating (a) molecular microbial and viral ecology, (b) molecular organic chemistry and stable and radiocarbon isotopes, and (c) state-of-the-art modeling, along a chronosequence of permafrost thaw in subarctic Sweden. The fate of carbon (C) in thawing permafrost is an outstanding challenge of modern biogeochemistry and climate change. Permafrost C pools are large (~1700 PgC), and C dynamics of thawing permafrost complex: old C decomposes as it is liberated from thawing permafrost as CO 2 or CH 4 , with a significant fraction cycling through lake sediments, even as new C accumulates due to thaw-initiated ecological succession. Our work is allowing better prediction of the net effect of these processes. Microbes mediate C dynamics in thawing permafrost, but a mechanistic understanding of how to scale microbial population dynamics, genomic potential, and expression to ecosystem-scale processes has been missing. A key question was: What is the interplay of microbial communities and organic matter chemical structure in the decomposition/preservation of organic C across a thaw gradient? And intriguingly, what (if any) is the role of phagemore » (viruses that infect prokaryotic cells) in mediating these processes? Viruses appear to play a large role in driving oceanic function, but these phenomena are virtually unstudied in terrestrial systems. This endeavor linking microbial and viral dynamics, organic geochemistry and trace gas production will improve models of C cycling in permafrost systems, and clarify the fate of C under future climates. Technical Approach – We conducted a study at Stordalen Mire, Sweden, along a permafrost thaw chronosequence encompassing permafrost palsas and their initial collapse stage, thawing bog sites (dominated by Sphagnum moss), fully-thawed and inundated fen sites (dominated by Eriophorum spp or Carex spp.), and lakes. Our project used cutting edge technologies in both biogeochemistry and molecular microbial ecology to advance systems biology research on microbial carbon cycling through: (a) systems-level mapping of chemical states and ages of organic matter (via FT-ICR-MS and 14C analysis) along thaw gradients to associated microbial communities, biochemical potentials, and activities (via meta-genomics, -transcriptomics, –proteomics, and viral genomics), and to CO 2 and CH 4 fluxes; (b) experimental incubations using Quantum Dot Probing, to test key hypotheses, arising from (a), about particular microbially-driven biochemical degradation pathways; (c) bioinformatics designed to simultaneously enhance the DOE Knowledgebase, and (d) integrated ecosystem C-cycle modeling testable by soil organic chemical and microbial data. Results from this project spanned 4 categories: (i) integrative across disciplines, and disciplinarily-focused in (ii) microbiology, (iii) biogeochemistry, and (iv) modeling. In integrated understanding of the system, we answered the questions posed above, mapping resident microbes to carbon transformations to reveal a carbon-processing shift with permafrost thaw, and discovering abundant, diverse and habitat-specific viruses that appear to be impacting carbon cycling, while also relating microbial communities to modeled processes. In microbiology-specific papers, we dug into viromes, microbial community networks, and informatic methods, while also introducing a new permafrost-associated phylum and its ecogenomic context. Relevance to DOE FOA - With a focus on discovering how microbial communities mediate the fate of old and new carbon in permafrost systems with climate change, our work directly responds to the call for “–omics driven basic research on the contribution of... microbial communities to C cycling processes in terrestrial ecosystems.” We bridge all three of the focal areas of the call, including (i) “Systems biology studies”, and development of –omics approaches (ii) “to investigate microbial community functional processes”, and (iii) “for imaging and analysis of microbially-mediated carbon cycling.”« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [4];  [5];  [6];  [7];  [7];  [7];  [8];  [9]
  1. Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (United States)
  2. The Ohio State Univ., Columbus, OH (United States)
  3. Univ. of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD (Australia)
  4. The Ohio State Univ., Columbus, OH (United States); Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (United States)
  5. Florida State Univ., Tallahassee, FL (United States)
  6. Stockholm Univ. (Sweden)
  7. Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH (United States)
  8. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  9. New England BioLabs, Ipswich, MA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
OSTI Identifier:
1506685
Report Number(s):
DOE-UA-0010580
DOE Contract Number:  
SC0010580
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; 37 INORGANIC, ORGANIC, PHYSICAL, AND ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY

Citation Formats

Saleska, Scott, Rich, Virginia, Tyson, Gene @., Sullivan, Mattew, Chanton, Jeffrey, Crill, Patrick, Frolking, Steve, Li, Changsheng, Varner, Ruth, Hurst, Greg, and VerBerkmoes, Nathan. Pathways to Carbon Liberation: A Systems Approach to Understanding Carbon Transformations and Losses from Thawing Permafrost. United States: N. p., 2019. Web. doi:10.2172/1506685.
Saleska, Scott, Rich, Virginia, Tyson, Gene @., Sullivan, Mattew, Chanton, Jeffrey, Crill, Patrick, Frolking, Steve, Li, Changsheng, Varner, Ruth, Hurst, Greg, & VerBerkmoes, Nathan. Pathways to Carbon Liberation: A Systems Approach to Understanding Carbon Transformations and Losses from Thawing Permafrost. United States. https://doi.org/10.2172/1506685
Saleska, Scott, Rich, Virginia, Tyson, Gene @., Sullivan, Mattew, Chanton, Jeffrey, Crill, Patrick, Frolking, Steve, Li, Changsheng, Varner, Ruth, Hurst, Greg, and VerBerkmoes, Nathan. Mon . "Pathways to Carbon Liberation: A Systems Approach to Understanding Carbon Transformations and Losses from Thawing Permafrost". United States. https://doi.org/10.2172/1506685. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1506685.
@article{osti_1506685,
title = {Pathways to Carbon Liberation: A Systems Approach to Understanding Carbon Transformations and Losses from Thawing Permafrost},
author = {Saleska, Scott and Rich, Virginia and Tyson, Gene @. and Sullivan, Mattew and Chanton, Jeffrey and Crill, Patrick and Frolking, Steve and Li, Changsheng and Varner, Ruth and Hurst, Greg and VerBerkmoes, Nathan},
abstractNote = {Our objective in this project was to discover how microbial communities mediate the fate of carbon in thawing permafrost under climate change. We proposed a systems approach integrating (a) molecular microbial and viral ecology, (b) molecular organic chemistry and stable and radiocarbon isotopes, and (c) state-of-the-art modeling, along a chronosequence of permafrost thaw in subarctic Sweden. The fate of carbon (C) in thawing permafrost is an outstanding challenge of modern biogeochemistry and climate change. Permafrost C pools are large (~1700 PgC), and C dynamics of thawing permafrost complex: old C decomposes as it is liberated from thawing permafrost as CO2 or CH4 , with a significant fraction cycling through lake sediments, even as new C accumulates due to thaw-initiated ecological succession. Our work is allowing better prediction of the net effect of these processes. Microbes mediate C dynamics in thawing permafrost, but a mechanistic understanding of how to scale microbial population dynamics, genomic potential, and expression to ecosystem-scale processes has been missing. A key question was: What is the interplay of microbial communities and organic matter chemical structure in the decomposition/preservation of organic C across a thaw gradient? And intriguingly, what (if any) is the role of phage (viruses that infect prokaryotic cells) in mediating these processes? Viruses appear to play a large role in driving oceanic function, but these phenomena are virtually unstudied in terrestrial systems. This endeavor linking microbial and viral dynamics, organic geochemistry and trace gas production will improve models of C cycling in permafrost systems, and clarify the fate of C under future climates. Technical Approach – We conducted a study at Stordalen Mire, Sweden, along a permafrost thaw chronosequence encompassing permafrost palsas and their initial collapse stage, thawing bog sites (dominated by Sphagnum moss), fully-thawed and inundated fen sites (dominated by Eriophorum spp or Carex spp.), and lakes. Our project used cutting edge technologies in both biogeochemistry and molecular microbial ecology to advance systems biology research on microbial carbon cycling through: (a) systems-level mapping of chemical states and ages of organic matter (via FT-ICR-MS and 14C analysis) along thaw gradients to associated microbial communities, biochemical potentials, and activities (via meta-genomics, -transcriptomics, –proteomics, and viral genomics), and to CO2 and CH4 fluxes; (b) experimental incubations using Quantum Dot Probing, to test key hypotheses, arising from (a), about particular microbially-driven biochemical degradation pathways; (c) bioinformatics designed to simultaneously enhance the DOE Knowledgebase, and (d) integrated ecosystem C-cycle modeling testable by soil organic chemical and microbial data. Results from this project spanned 4 categories: (i) integrative across disciplines, and disciplinarily-focused in (ii) microbiology, (iii) biogeochemistry, and (iv) modeling. In integrated understanding of the system, we answered the questions posed above, mapping resident microbes to carbon transformations to reveal a carbon-processing shift with permafrost thaw, and discovering abundant, diverse and habitat-specific viruses that appear to be impacting carbon cycling, while also relating microbial communities to modeled processes. In microbiology-specific papers, we dug into viromes, microbial community networks, and informatic methods, while also introducing a new permafrost-associated phylum and its ecogenomic context. Relevance to DOE FOA - With a focus on discovering how microbial communities mediate the fate of old and new carbon in permafrost systems with climate change, our work directly responds to the call for “–omics driven basic research on the contribution of... microbial communities to C cycling processes in terrestrial ecosystems.” We bridge all three of the focal areas of the call, including (i) “Systems biology studies”, and development of –omics approaches (ii) “to investigate microbial community functional processes”, and (iii) “for imaging and analysis of microbially-mediated carbon cycling.”},
doi = {10.2172/1506685},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1506685}, journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2019},
month = {4}
}