Ancient low-molecular-weight organic acids in permafrost fuel rapid carbon dioxide production upon thaw

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Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
Document Type: Report
Length: 5,989 words
Lexile Measure: 1560L

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Abstract :

Northern permafrost soils store a vast reservoir of carbon, nearly twice that of the present atmosphere. Current and projected climate warming threatens widespread thaw of these frozen, organic carbon (OC)-rich soils. Upon thaw, mobilized permafrost OC in dissolved and particulate forms can enter streams and rivers, which are important processors of OC and conduits for carbon dioxide (C[O.sub.2]) to the atmosphere. Here, we demonstrate that ancient dissolved organic carbon (DOC) leached from 35,800 y B.P. permafrost soils is rapidly mineralized to C[O.sub.2]. During 200-h experiments in a novel high-temporal-resolution bioreactor, DOC concentration decreased by an average of 53%, fueling a more than sevenfold increase in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentration. Eighty-seven percent of the DOC loss to microbial uptake was derived from the low-molecular-weight (LMW) organic acids acetate and butyrate. To our knowledge, our study is the first to directly quantify high C[O.sub.2] production rates from permafrost-derived LMW DOC mineralization. The observed DOC loss rates are among the highest reported for permafrost carbon and demonstrate the potential importance of LMW DOC in driving the rapid metabolism of Pleistocene-age permafrost carbon upon thaw and the outgassing of C[O.sub.2] to the atmosphere by soils and nearby inland waters. permafrost | dissolved organic carbon | carbon dioxide | organic acids | Pleistocene

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A438627560