UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Surface CO₂ Exchange Dynamics across a Climatic Gradient in McKenzie Valley: Effect of Landforms, Climate and Permafrost Startsev, Natalia; Bhatti, Jagtar S.; Jassal, Rachhpal S.


Northern regions are experiencing considerable climate change affecting the state of permafrost, peat accumulation rates, and the large pool of carbon (C) stored in soil, thereby emphasizing the importance of monitoring surface C fluxes in different landform sites along a climate gradient. We studied surface net C exchange (NCE) and ecosystem respiration (ER) across different landforms (upland, peat plateau, collapse scar) in mid-boreal to high subarctic ecoregions in the Mackenzie Valley of northwestern Canada for three years. NCE and ER were measured using automatic CO₂ chambers (ADC, Bioscientific LTD., Herts, England), and soil respiration (SR) was measured with solid state infrared CO₂ sensors (Carbocaps, Vaisala, Vantaa, Finland) using the concentration gradient technique. Both NCE and ER were primarily controlled by soil temperature in the upper horizons. In upland forest locations, ER varied from 583 to 214 g C·m⁻²·year⁻¹ from mid-boreal to high subarctic zones, respectively. For the bog and peat plateau areas, ER was less than half that at the upland locations. Of SR, nearly 75% was generated in the upper 5 cm layer composed of live bryophytes and actively decomposing fibric material. Our results suggest that for the upland and bog locations, ER significantly exceeded NCE. Bryophyte NCE was greatest in continuously waterlogged collapsed areas and was negligible in other locations. Overall, upland forest sites were sources of CO₂ (from 64 g·C·m⁻²·year⁻¹ in the high subarctic to 588 g C·m⁻²·year⁻¹ in mid-boreal zone); collapsed areas were sinks of C, especially in high subarctic (from 27 g·C·m⁻² year⁻¹ in mid-boreal to 86 g·C·m⁻²·year⁻¹ in high subarctic) and peat plateaus were minor sources (from 153 g·C·m⁻²·year⁻1 in mid-boreal to 6 g·C·m⁻²·year⁻¹ in high subarctic). The results are important in understanding how different landforms are responding to climate change and would be useful in modeling the effect of future climate change on the soil C balance in the northern regions.

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