Suzanne E. Tank
Robert G. Striegl
Steven V. Kokelj
Justin Kokszka
Cristian Estop-Aragones
David Olefeldt
Scott Zolkos
2020
<p><span>As climate warming and precipitation increase at high latitudes, permafrost terrains across the circumpolar north are poised for intensified geomorphic activity and sediment mobilization that are expected to persist for millennia. In previously glaciated permafrost terrain, ice-rich deposits are associated with large stores of reactive mineral substrate. Over geological timescales, chemical weathering moderates atmospheric </span><span class="inline-formula">CO<sub>2</sub></span><span> levels, raising the prospect that mass wasting driven by terrain consolidation following thaw (thermokarst) may enhance weathering of permafrost sediments and thus climate feedbacks. The nature of these feedbacks depends upon the mineral composition of sediments (weathering sources) and the balance between atmospheric exchange of </span><span class="inline-formula">CO<sub>2</sub></span><span> vs. fluvial export of carbonate alkalinity (</span><span class="inline-formula">Σ</span><span>[</span><span class="inline-formula"><span id="MathJax-Element-1-Frame" class="MathJax" data-mathml="<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" id="M4" display="inline" overflow="scroll" dspmath="mathml"><mrow class="chem"><msubsup><mi mathvariant="normal">HCO</mi><mn mathvariant="normal">3</mn><mo>-</mo></msubsup></mrow></math>"><span id="M4" class="math"><span><span id="MathJax-Span-2" class="mrow"><span id="MathJax-Span-3" class="mrow chem"><span id="MathJax-Span-4" class="msubsup"><span id="MathJax-Span-5" class="mi">HCO</span><span id="MathJax-Span-6" class="mo">−</span><span id="MathJax-Span-7" class="mn">3</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span><span>, </span><span class="inline-formula"><span id="MathJax-Element-2-Frame" class="MathJax" data-mathml="<math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" id="M5" display="inline" overflow="scroll" dspmath="mathml"><mrow class="chem"><msubsup><mi mathvariant="normal">CO</mi><mn mathvariant="normal">3</mn><mrow><mn mathvariant="normal">2</mn><mo>-</mo></mrow></msubsup></mrow></math>"><span id="M5" class="math"><span><span id="MathJax-Span-9" class="mrow"><span id="MathJax-Span-10" class="mrow chem"><span id="MathJax-Span-11" class="msubsup"><span id="MathJax-Span-12" class="mi">CO</span><span id="MathJax-Span-13" class="mrow"><span id="MathJax-Span-14" class="mn">2</span><span id="MathJax-Span-15" class="mo">−</span></span><span id="MathJax-Span-16" class="mn">3</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span><span>]). Working in the fluvially incised, ice-rich glacial deposits of the Peel Plateau in northwestern Canada, we determine the effects of slope thermokarst in the form of retrogressive thaw slump (RTS) activity on mineral weathering sources, </span><span class="inline-formula">CO<sub>2</sub></span><span> dynamics, and carbonate alkalinity export and how these effects integrate across watershed scales (</span><span class="inline-formula">∼</span><span> 2 to 1000 </span><span class="inline-formula">km<sup>2</sup></span><span>). We worked along three transects in nested watersheds with varying connectivity to RTS activity: a 550 </span><span class="inline-formula">m</span><span> transect along a first-order thaw stream within a large RTS, a 14 </span><span class="inline-formula">km</span><span> transect along a stream which directly received inputs from several RTSs, and a 70 </span><span class="inline-formula">km</span><span> transect along a larger stream with headwaters that lay outside of RTS influence. In undisturbed headwaters, stream chemistry reflected </span><span class="inline-formula">CO<sub>2</sub></span><span> from soil respiration processes and atmospheric exchange. Within the RTS, rapid sulfuric acid carbonate weathering, prompted by the exposure of sulfide- and carbonate-bearing tills, appeared to increase fluvial </span><span class="inline-formula">CO<sub>2</sub></span><span> efflux to the atmosphere and propagate carbonate alkalinity across watershed scales. Despite covering less than 1 % of the landscape, RTS activity drove carbonate alkalinity to increase by 2 orders of magnitude along the largest transect. Amplified export of carbonate alkalinity together with isotopic signals of shifting DIC and </span><span class="inline-formula">CO<sub>2</sub></span><span> sources along the downstream transects highlights the dynamic nature of carbon cycling that may typify glaciated permafrost watersheds subject to intensification of hillslope thermokarst. The balance between </span><span class="inline-formula">CO<sub>2</sub></span><span> drawdown in regions where carbonic acid weathering predominates and </span><span class="inline-formula">CO<sub>2</sub></span><span> release in regions where sulfides are more prevalent will determine the biogeochemical legacy of thermokarst and enhanced weathering in northern permafrost terrains. Effects of RTSs on carbon cycling can be expected to persist for millennia, indicating a need for their integration into predictions of weathering–carbon–climate feedbacks among thermokarst terrains.</span></p>
application/pdf
10.5194/bg-17-5163-2020
en
Copernicus
Thermokarst amplifies fluvial inorganic carbon cycling and export across watershed scales on the Peel Plateau, Canada
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