Canadian permafrost stores large pools of ammonium and optically distinct dissolved organic matter

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Permafrost degradation may lead to mobilization of carbon and nutrients and enhance microbial processing rates of previously frozen organic matter. Although the pool size and chemical composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM) are fundamental determinants of the carbon cycle in Arctic watersheds, its source within the seasonally thawing active layer and the underlying permafrost remains largely uncharacterized. Here, we used 25 soil cores that extended down into the permafrost from nine sites across Arctic Canada to quantify dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen stocks, and to characterize DOM optical properties. Organic permafrost stores 5–7 times more DOC and ammonium than the active layer and mineral permafrost. Furthermore, the permafrost layers contain substantial low molecular weight DOM with low aromaticity suggesting high biodegradability. We conclude that soil organic matter stoichiometry and cryogenic processes determine permafrost DOM chemistry, and that thawing will mobilize large amounts of labile DOC and ammonium into Arctic watersheds.

TidsskriftNature Communications
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - 2020

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