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Title: Post-thaw variability in litter decomposition best explained by microtopography at an ice-rich permafrost peatland

Abstract

Litter decomposition, a key process by which recently fixed carbon is lost from ecosystems, is a function of environmental conditions and plant community characteristics. In ice-rich peatlands, permafrost thaw introduces high variability in both abiotic and biotic factors, both of which may affect litter decomposition rates in different ways. Can the existing conceptual frameworks of litter decomposition and its controls be applied across a structurally heterogeneous thaw gradient? Here, we investigated the variability in litter decomposition and its predictors at the Stordalen subarctic peatland in northern Sweden. We measured in situ decomposition of representative litter and environments using litter bags throughout two years. We found highly variable litter decomposition rates with turnover times ranging from five months to four years. Surface elevation was a strong correlate of litter decomposition across the landscape, likely as it integrates multiple environmental and plant community changes brought about by thaw. There was faster decomposition but also more mass remaining after two years in thawed areas relative to permafrost areas, suggesting faster initial loss of carbon but more storage into the slow-decomposing carbon pool. Finally, our results highlight mechanisms and predictors of carbon cycle changes in ice-rich peatlands following permafrost thaw.

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [2]
  1. McGill Univ., Montreal, QC (Canada). Dept of Geography; Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Climate Change Science Inst. and Environmental Sciences Division
  2. McGill Univ., Montreal, QC (Canada). Dept of Geography
  3. Wageningen Univ., Wageningen (The Netherlands). Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology Group
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1423118
Grant/Contract Number:  
AC05-00OR22725
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 50; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 1523-0430
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; Discontinuous permafrost zone; litter decomposition; microtopography; peatland; permafrost thaw

Citation Formats

Malhotra, Avni, Moore, Tim R., Limpens, Juul, and Roulet, Nigel T. Post-thaw variability in litter decomposition best explained by microtopography at an ice-rich permafrost peatland. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.1080/15230430.2017.1415622.
Malhotra, Avni, Moore, Tim R., Limpens, Juul, & Roulet, Nigel T. Post-thaw variability in litter decomposition best explained by microtopography at an ice-rich permafrost peatland. United States. doi:10.1080/15230430.2017.1415622.
Malhotra, Avni, Moore, Tim R., Limpens, Juul, and Roulet, Nigel T. Tue . "Post-thaw variability in litter decomposition best explained by microtopography at an ice-rich permafrost peatland". United States. doi:10.1080/15230430.2017.1415622. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1423118.
@article{osti_1423118,
title = {Post-thaw variability in litter decomposition best explained by microtopography at an ice-rich permafrost peatland},
author = {Malhotra, Avni and Moore, Tim R. and Limpens, Juul and Roulet, Nigel T.},
abstractNote = {Litter decomposition, a key process by which recently fixed carbon is lost from ecosystems, is a function of environmental conditions and plant community characteristics. In ice-rich peatlands, permafrost thaw introduces high variability in both abiotic and biotic factors, both of which may affect litter decomposition rates in different ways. Can the existing conceptual frameworks of litter decomposition and its controls be applied across a structurally heterogeneous thaw gradient? Here, we investigated the variability in litter decomposition and its predictors at the Stordalen subarctic peatland in northern Sweden. We measured in situ decomposition of representative litter and environments using litter bags throughout two years. We found highly variable litter decomposition rates with turnover times ranging from five months to four years. Surface elevation was a strong correlate of litter decomposition across the landscape, likely as it integrates multiple environmental and plant community changes brought about by thaw. There was faster decomposition but also more mass remaining after two years in thawed areas relative to permafrost areas, suggesting faster initial loss of carbon but more storage into the slow-decomposing carbon pool. Finally, our results highlight mechanisms and predictors of carbon cycle changes in ice-rich peatlands following permafrost thaw.},
doi = {10.1080/15230430.2017.1415622},
journal = {Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research},
number = 1,
volume = 50,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {2}
}

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