Boreal ecosystems represent a large carbon (C) reservoir and a substantial source of greenhouse gases. Hydrologic conditions dictate whether C leached from boreal soils is processed in catchments or flushed to less productive environments via the stream. This study quantified hydrologic and biogeochemical C loss from a boreal catchment underlain by frozen silt, where flowpaths may deepen as the active layer thaws over the summer. We hypothesized a decrease in the magnitude of C mineralization over the summer associated with changing flowpaths and decreasing hydrologic connectivity, organic matter lability, and nitrogen (N) availability. Conservative tracers were used to partition C and N loss between catchment export and biogeochemical processing. Coupling tracers with tributary and porewater chemistry indicated C and N cycling in soil flowpaths, with an exponential decrease over the summer. Nitrate was primarily reduced in hillslope flowpaths and the lack of N reaching the stream appeared to limit C mineralization. Stream export accounted for the greatest loss of C, removing 247 and 113 mol hr−1 in the early and late summer, respectively. Reactivity was related to hydrologic connectivity between the soils and stream, which was greatest early in the summer and following a large flood. While a warming climate may increase storage potential in thawed soils, the early‐season flush of labile material and late‐season runoff through mineral flowpaths may maintain high C export rates. Therefore, we highlight physical export as a dominant cause of aqueous C loss from silty catchments as the Arctic continues to thaw.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Hydrologic controls on the transport and cycling of carbon and nitrogen in a boreal catchment underlain by continuous permafrost|
|Series title||Journal of Geophysical Research G: Biogeosciences|
|Contributing office(s)||Colorado Water Science Center, National Research Program - Central Branch, Alaska Science Center Water|