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Riverine particulate C and N generated at the permafrost thaw front: case study of western Siberian rivers across a 1700 km latitudinal transect

Abstract : In contrast to numerous studies on the dynamics of dissolved ( < 0.45 µm) elements in permafrost-affected high-latitude rivers, very little is known of the behavior of river suspended ( > 0.45 µm) matter (RSM) in these regions. In order to test the effect of climate, permafrost and physio-geographical landscape parameters (bogs, forest and lake coverage of the watershed) on RSM and particulate C, N and P concentrations in river water, we sampled 33 small and medium-sized rivers (10-100 000 km2 watershed) along a 1700 km N-S transect including both permafrost-affected and permafrost-free zones of the Western Siberian Lowland (WSL). The concentrations of C and N in RSM decreased with the increase in river watershed size, illustrating (i) the importance of organic debris in small rivers which drain peatlands and (ii) the role of mineral matter from bank abrasion in larger rivers. The presence of lakes in the watershed increased C and N but decreased P concentrations in the RSM. The C : N ratio in the RSM reflected the source from the deep soil horizon rather than surface soil horizon, similar to that of other Arctic rivers. This suggests the export of peat and mineral particles through suprapermafrost flow occurring at the base of the active layer. There was a maximum of both particulate C and N concentrations and export fluxes at the beginning of permafrost appearance, in the sporadic and discontinuous zone (62-64° N). This presumably reflected the organic matter mobilization from newly thawed organic horizons in soils at the active latitudinal thawing front. The results suggest that a northward shift of permafrost boundaries and an increase in active layer thickness may increase particulate C and N export by WSL rivers to the Arctic Ocean by a factor of 2, while P export may remain unchanged. In contrast, within a long-term climate warming scenario, the disappearance of permafrost in the north, the drainage of lakes and transformation of bogs to forest may decrease C and N concentrations in RSM by 2 to 3 times.
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Ivan V. Krickov, Artem G. Lim, Rinat M. Manasypov, Sergey V. Loiko, Liudmila S. Shirokova, et al.. Riverine particulate C and N generated at the permafrost thaw front: case study of western Siberian rivers across a 1700 km latitudinal transect. Biogeosciences, 2018, 15, pp.6867-6884. ⟨10.5194/bg-15-6867-2018⟩. ⟨insu-03661391⟩

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