Variable respiration rates of incubated permafrost soil extracts from the Kolyma River lowlands, north-east Siberia
Thawing permafrost supplies dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to aquatic systems; however, the magnitude, variability and fate of this DOC is not well constrained. Our objective was to examine DOC respiration from seasonally thawed and near-surface (<1.5 m) permafrost soils collected from five locations in the Kolyma River Basin, north-east Russia. We measured soil organic carbon (OC) content, water-soluble macronutrients (DOC, NH4, PO4) and the heterotrophic respiration potentials of soil extract DOC in five-day laboratory incubations. DOC concentrations ranged from 2.8 to 27.9 mg L−1 (n = 14). Carbon respiration was 0.03–0.47 mg C (n = 16) and 8.7–31.4%, total DOC (n = 14). While DOC concentration was a function of soil OC concentration, we did not find a relationship between C respiration and soil OC or DOC concentrations. Respiration was highest in the top active layer, but varied widely among sites, and lowest at the bottom of the active layer. Respiration from yedoma varied across sites (0.04–0.47 mg C respired, 8.7–31.4% total DOC). Despite the small sample size, our study indicates near-surface soils and permafrost are spatially variable in terms of both soil OC content and C respiration rates, and also that OC contents do not predict C respiration rates. While a larger sample size would be useful to confirm these results at broader geographic scales, these initial results suggest that soil OC heterogeneity should be considered in efforts to determine the fate of soil OC released from permafrost-dominated terrestrial ecosystems to aquatic ecosystems following permafrost thaw.
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