Differential response of carbon fluxes to climate in three peatland ecosystems that vary in the presence and stability of permafrost

Changes in vegetation and soil properties following permafrost degradation and thermokarst development in peatlands may cause changes in net carbon storage. To better understand these dynamics, we established three sites in Alaska that vary in permafrost regime, including a black spruce peat plateau forest with stable permafrost, an internal collapse scar bog formed as a result of thermokarst, and a rich fen without permafrost. Measurements include year-round eddy covariance estimates of carbon dioxide (CO2), water, and energy fluxes, associated environmental variables, and methane (CH4) fluxes at the collapse scar bog. The ecosystems all acted as net sinks of CO2 in 2011 and 2012, when air temperature and precipitation remained near long-term means. In 2013, under a late snowmelt and late leaf out followed by a hot, dry summer, the permafrost forest and collapse scar bog were sources of CO2. In this same year, CO2 uptake in the fen increased, largely because summer inundation from groundwater inputs suppressed ecosystem respiration. CO2 exchange in the permafrost forest and collapse scar bog was sensitive to warm air temperatures, with 0.5 g C m−2 lost each day when maximum air temperature was very warm (≥29°C). The bog lost 4981 ± 300 mg CH4 m−2 between April and September 2013, indicating that this ecosystem acted as a significant source of both CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere in 2013. These results suggest that boreal peatland responses to warming and drying, both of which are expected to occur in a changing climate, will depend on permafrost regime.
Euskirchen, E. S., C. W. Edgar, M. R. Turetsky, M. P. Waldrop, and J. W. Harden
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences