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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-111
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-111
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  15 Apr 2020

15 Apr 2020

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A revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal BG and is expected to appear here in due course.

Thermokarst amplifies fluvial inorganic carbon cycling and export across watershed scales on the Peel Plateau, Canada

Scott Zolkos1,a, Suzanne E. Tank1, Robert G. Striegl2, Steven V. Kokelj3, Justin Kokoszka3, Cristian Estop-Aragonés4,b, and David Olefeldt4 Scott Zolkos et al.
  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2E3, Canada
  • 2USGS National Research Program, Boulder, CO, 80303, USA
  • 3Northwest Territories Geological Survey, Yellowknife, NT, X1A 2L9, Canada
  • 4Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2E3, Canada
  • apresent address: Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, MA 02540, USA
  • bpresent address: Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, Münster, 48149, Germany

Abstract. The chemical weathering of minerals is a primary control on atmospheric CO2 levels and Earth's climate over geological timescales. As climate warming and precipitation intensify at high latitudes, glaciated terrains across the circumpolar north are poised for rapid geomorphic change and associated changes in mineral weathering dynamics. Here, we determine how the effects of permafrost thaw on mineral weathering sources and inorganic carbon cycling and export integrate across watershed scales (from ~ 2 to 1000 km2) in a permafrost terrain within a former glacial margin and dominated by relatively inorganic sediments (Peel Plateau, Canada). Our work was conducted along three nested transects with varying intensities of retrogressive thaw slump (RTS) thermokarst activity: a 550 m transect along a first-order thaw stream within a RTS; a 14 km transect along a stream which directly received RTS inputs; and a 70 km transect along a larger stream which received inputs from RTS-affected tributaries. In the thaw stream, rapid sulfuric acid weathering of carbonate tills appeared to amplify CO2 efflux to the atmosphere and HCO3 export downstream, where DIC and CO2 stable isotopes revealed a shift to an abiotic-inorganic driven aquatic carbon cycle. Along the intermediate transect, DIC concentrations were ten times higher in the RTS-affected reach than in the undisturbed headwaters, and decreased downstream with decreasing RTS area. Along the largest transect, HCO3 concentrations increased by two orders of magnitude in association with RTS activity, despite RTSs covering only ~ 0.5 % of the landscape. Statistical modeling of hydrochemical measurements and geospatial landscape data showed that RTSs were a primary landscape driver of HCO3 export across watershed scales. Constraining sources and rates of mineral weathering across diverse permafrost terrains will help to understand future changes in Arctic aquatic carbon cycling, as our results suggest that abiotic-inorganic processes may become prevalent.

Scott Zolkos et al.

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Scott Zolkos et al.

Scott Zolkos et al.

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Latest update: 27 Sep 2020
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Short summary
High latitude warming thaws permafrost, exposing minerals to weathering and fluvial transport. We studied the effects of abrupt thaw and associated weathering on carbon cycling in western Canada. Permafrost collapse affected < 1 % of the landscape yet enabled carbonate weathering that was associated with CO2 degassing in headwaters and increased bicarbonate export across watershed scales. Weathering may become a driver of carbon cycling in ice and mineral rich permafrost terrain across the Arctic.
High latitude warming thaws permafrost, exposing minerals to weathering and fluvial transport....
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