EGU23-4338, updated on 22 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Greenhouse gas dynamics across a latitudinal gradient of thermokarst lakes

Nicolas Valiente1,2, Oriol Grau3, Victoria Martin1, Ivan Janssens3, Inge Van de Putte3, Peter Dörsch4, Hannes Schmidt1, and Andreas Richter1
Nicolas Valiente et al.
  • 1Division of Terrestrial Ecosystem Research, Centre of Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science, University of Vienna, Djerassiplatz 1, 1030 Vienna, Austria
  • 2Department of Science and Agroforestry Technology and Genetics, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Campus Universitario s/n, 02071 Albacete, Spain
  • 3Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
  • 4Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, 1432 Ås, Norway

The Arctic is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the planet due to climate change. The warmer temperatures are causing, among other effects, the permafrost to thaw. When ice-rich permafrost thaws, thermokarst features form due to subsidence of the ground surface and the creation of dynamic depressions, basins, and lakes. As a result, the hydrological cycle in these latitudes is intensifying, causing an increase of nutrients and organic carbon in surface waters. Such impacts on freshwaters affect microbial community composition, and thus, these systems are good sentinels to study processes in primary ecological succession related to ecosystem processes such as productivity and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This study aims to improve the current understanding of microbial processes leading to release of GHG in thermokarst lakes. To that end, we sampled a total of 12 thermokarst basins in August 2022 along a latitudinal gradient (67ºN - 69ºN) in the Northwestern Territories (Canada). The basins were selected so that half were in the taiga biome and half in the tundra biome. In addition, based on satellite images and in-field observations, half of the lakes sampled were in expansion and the other half were undergoing drainage. Water samples were collected for the analysis of GHGs (CH4, CO2, N2O), major ions, dissolved nutrients (organic C, δ13C-DOC, organic and inorganic -N) and microbial community composition (16S rRNA gene metabarcoding). We used Ar-corrected gas saturation of each GHG as a proxy of net metabolic changes. Our first results show that both expanding and shrinking lakes were strongly oversaturated in CH4 andCO2, slightly saturated in N2O, and slightly undersaturated in O2, pointing out higher respiration activity than primary production. Microbial mineralization of organic matter was used as a proxy for GHG production. We found higher concentrations of dissolved organic C in shrinking lakes compared to expanding ones. Following the latitudinal gradient (i.e. biomes), higher temperatures were found in lakes sampled in the taiga compared to those located in tundra, together with deeper permafrost table depths. In surface waters, pH values and dissolved O2 concentrations were significantly higher in tundra lakes compared to taiga lakes, probably as a result of lateral DOM fluxes in more productive ecosystems (i.e. boreal forests). Differences between microbial communities in both biomes are therefore expected, which we will verify once the ongoing sequencing analyses are available. Our study advances the current knowledge of GHG dynamics in thermokarst lakes and helps to predict future effects of climate change impacts in northern latitudes.

How to cite: Valiente, N., Grau, O., Martin, V., Janssens, I., Van de Putte, I., Dörsch, P., Schmidt, H., and Richter, A.: Greenhouse gas dynamics across a latitudinal gradient of thermokarst lakes, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-4338,, 2023.