Recent studies indicated a second layer of organic matter often accumulates in the lower active layer and upper permafrost in arctic tundra soils due to cryoturbation. The objective of this study is to characterize cryoturbated organic matter by the combination of physical size-fractionation approaches with modern analytical techniques. The results of elemental composition (C, N), stable isotope (¹³C, ¹⁵N), radiocarbon age (¹⁴C), and molecular fingerprints (Py-GC/MS) analysis indicated cryoturbated organic matters are little humified and highly bioavailable. SOM (soil organic matter) associated with fine sand size particles was considered to be the organic carbon pool most sensitive to the changing climate. Clay minerals stabilize less humifed organic matter than those in temperate and tropical soils. The bioavailable soluble organics extracted from cryoturbated organic matter were found to have significant long-term accumulated effects on carbon cycling. The similar molecular compositions between cryoturbated and surface organic matter suggest vegetation covers haven't changed since the early Holocene. Furthermore, the quality of SOM in moist acidic tundra is higher than that of wet nonacidic tundra. With the deepening active layer followed by thawing permafrost, cryoturbated organic matter could reenter the biogeochemical cycles in the Arctic, resulting in a positive feedback to climate change.
Thesis (M.S.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2005
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