Evidence for non-steady-state carbon emissions from snow-scoured alpine tundra

Nature Communications
By: , and 

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Abstract

High-latitude warming is capable of accelerating permafrost degradation and the decomposition of previously frozen carbon. The existence of an analogous high-altitude feedback, however, has yet to be directly evaluated. We address this knowledge gap by coupling a radiocarbon-based model to 7 years (2008–2014) of continuous eddy covariance data from a snow-scoured alpine tundra meadow in Colorado, USA, where solifluction lobes are associated with discontinuous permafrost. On average, the ecosystem was a net annual source of 232 ± 54 g C m−2 (mean ± 1 standard deviation) to the atmosphere, and respiration of relatively radiocarbon-depleted (i.e., older) substrate contributes to carbon emissions during the winter. Given that alpine soils with permafrost occupy 3.6 × 106 km2 land area and are estimated to contain 66.3 Pg of soil organic carbon (4.5% of the global pool), this scenario has global implications for the mountain carbon balance and corresponding resource allocation to lower elevations.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Evidence for non-steady-state carbon emissions from snow-scoured alpine tundra
Series title Nature Communications
DOI 10.1038/s41467-019-09149-2
Volume 10
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Contributing office(s) Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
Description Article number: 1306; 9 p.
Country United States
State Colorado
Other Geospatial Niwot Ridge