TitlePotential carbon emissions dominated by carbon dioxide from thawed permafrost soils
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsSchadel, C, Bader, MK-F, Schuur, EAG, Biasi, C, Bracho, R, Čapek, P, De Baets, S, Diakova, K, Ernakovich, J, Estop-Aragones, C, Graham, DE, Hartley, IP, Iversen, CM, Kane, E, Knoblauch, C, Lupascu, M, Martikainen, PJ, Natali, SM, Norby, RJ, O'Donnell, JA, Chowdhury, TRoy, Santruckova, H, Shaver, G, Sloan, VL, Treat, CC, Turetsky, MR, Waldrop, MP, Wickland, KP
JournalNature Climate Change

Increasing temperatures in northern high latitudes are causing permafrost to thaw1, making large amounts of previously frozen organic matter vulnerable to microbial decomposition. Permafrost thaw also creates a fragmented landscape of drier and wetter soil conditions3,4 that determine the amount and form (carbon dioxide (CO2), or methane (CH4)) of carbon (C) released to the atmosphere. The rate and form of C release control the magnitude of the permafrost C feedback, so their relative  contribution with a warming climate remains unclear. We quantified the eect of increasing temperature and changes from aerobic to anaerobic soil conditions using 25 soil incubation studies from the permafrost zone. Here we show, using two separate meta-analyses, that a 10 C increase in incubation temperature increased C release by a factor of 2.0 (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.8 to 2.2). Under aerobic incubation conditions, soils released 3.4 (95% CI, 2.2 to 5.2) times more C than under  anaerobic conditions. Even when accounting for the higher heat trapping capacity of CH4, soils released 2.3 (95% CI, 1.5 to 3.4) times more C under aerobic conditions. These results imply that permafrost ecosystems thawing under aerobic conditions and releasing CO2 will strengthen the permafrost C feedback more than waterlogged systemsreleasingCO2 andCH4 for a given amount of C.