Degrading permafrost river catchments and their impact on Arctic Ocean nearshore processes

Mann, Paul, Strauss, Jens, Palmtag, Juri, Dowdy, Kelsey, Ogneva, Olga, Fuchs, Matthias, Bedington, Michael, Torres, Ricardo, Polimene, Luca, Overduin, Paul, Mollenhauer, Gesine, Grosse, Guido, Rachold, Volker, Sobczak, Robert G. M. and Juhls, Bennet (2022) Degrading permafrost river catchments and their impact on Arctic Ocean nearshore processes. Ambio, 51 (2). pp. 439-455. ISSN 0044-7447

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Arctic warming is causing ancient perennially frozen ground (permafrost) to thaw, resulting in ground collapse, and reshaping of landscapes. This threatens Arctic peoples' infrastructure, cultural sites, and land-based natural resources. Terrestrial permafrost thaw and ongoing intensification of hydrological cycles also enhance the amount and alter the type of organic carbon (OC) delivered from land to Arctic nearshore environments. These changes may affect coastal processes, food web dynamics and marine resources on which many traditional ways of life rely. Here, we examine how future projected increases in runoff and permafrost thaw from two permafrost-dominated Siberian watersheds - the Kolyma and Lena, may alter carbon turnover rates and OC distributions through river networks. We demonstrate that the unique composition of terrestrial permafrost-derived OC can cause significant increases to aquatic carbon degradation rates (20 to 60% faster rates with 1% permafrost OC). We compile results on aquatic OC degradation and examine how strengthening Arctic hydrological cycles may increase the connectivity between terrestrial landscapes and receiving nearshore ecosystems, with potential ramifications for coastal carbon budgets and ecosystem structure. To address the future challenges Arctic coastal communities will face, we argue that it will become essential to consider how nearshore ecosystems will respond to changing coastal inputs and identify how these may affect the resiliency and availability of essential food resources.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This work is embedded into the Changing Arctic Ocean (CAO) program (lead by the NERC-BMBF project CACOON [NE/R012806/1 (UKRI NERC) and #03F0806A (BMBF)]. This work was partly funded by the U.S. NSF (National Science Foundation, ANT-1203885/PLR-1500169) grants to RGMS. We thank the NSF POLARIS project (; 0732944 and 1044610) and participants for Kolyma bioreactivity measurements and sample collection. Figure 1 was drawn by Yves Nowak (AWI), Fig. 2 by Sebastian Laboor (AWI). For fieldwork support, we want to thank the Samoylov Research Station and the Northeast Science Station and teams, especially Sergei and Nikita Zimov.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Arctic rivers, Carbon cycle, Carbon fluxes, Erosion
Subjects: F700 Ocean Sciences
F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2021 12:15
Last Modified: 27 Dec 2021 08:00

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