Composition and photo-reactivity of organic matter from permafrost soils and surface waters in interior Alaska†
Yedoma permafrost soils are especially susceptible to abrupt thaw due to their exceptional thickness and high ice content. Compared to other mineral soils, yedoma has a high organic carbon content, which has shown to be particularly biolabile. The organic carbon in these deposits needs to be characterised to provide an identification toolkit for detecting and monitoring the thaw, mobilisation and mineralisation of yedoma permafrost. This study characterised organic carbon isolates from thermokarst lakes (either receiving inputs from thaw of original yedoma or refrozen-thermokarst deposits, or lacking recent thaw) during winter and summer seasons within the Goldstream Creek watershed, a discontinuous permafrost watershed in interior Alaska, to identify the extent to which thermokarst-lake environments are impacted by degradation of yedoma permafrost. Waters from lakes of varied age and thermokarst activity, as well as active layer and undisturbed yedoma permafrost soils were isolated and characterised by functional group abundance (multiCP-MAS 13C and SPR-W5-WATERGATE 1H NMR), absorbance and fluorescence, and photobleaching ability. DOM isolated from winter and summer seasons revealed differing composition and photoreactivity, suggesting varied active layer and permafrost influence under differing ground water flow regimes. Water extractable organic matter isolates from permafrost leachates revealed variation in terms of photoreactivity and photolability, with the youngest sampled permafrost isolate being the most photoreactive and photolabile. As temperatures increase, release of permafrost organic matter is inevitable. Obtaining a holistic understanding of DOM composition and photoreactivity will allow for a better prediction of permafrost thaw impacts in the coming decades.