Aquatic carbon and GHG export from a permafrost catchment; identifying source areas and primary flow paths.

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Kerry Jane Dinsmore1, Jason Scott Lessels2, Michael F Billett3, Lorna E Street4, Philip A Wookey5, Doerthe Tetzlaff6, Robert Baxter7, Jens-Arne Subke3, Joshua Dean3 and Ian J Washbourne8, (1)Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Biosphere-Atmosphere Interactions, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, (2)University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia, (3)University of Stirling, Stirling, United Kingdom, (4)Heriot Watt, School of Life Sciences, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, (5)Heriot-Watt University, Biological Sciences, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, (6)University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom, (7)University of Durham, Durham, DH1, United Kingdom, (8)Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Penicuik, United Kingdom
The aquatic pathway is increasingly being recognized as an important component of landscape scale greenhouse gas (GHG) budgets. Due to low temperatures and short residence times limiting in-stream production in northern headwater catchments, much of the exported carbon is likely to be allochthonous, transported via throughflow to the surface drainage system. Identifying sources and primary flow pathways is therefore essential in understanding and predicting changes in the aquatic flux magnitude. Arctic landscapes are now widely recognised as being particularly vulnerable to climate driven changes. The HYDRA project (“Permafrost catchments in transition: hydrological controls on carbon cycling and greenhouse gas budgets”) aims to understand the fundamental role that hydrological processes play in regulating landscape-scale carbon fluxes, and predict how changes in vegetation and active layer depth in permafrost environments influence the delivery and export of aquatic carbon.

In this study we present aquatic concentrations and fluxes of carbon and GHG species collected across two field seasons (2013, 2014) from an arctic headwater catchment in northern Canada. Measured species include dissolved organic (DOC) and inorganic carbon (DIC), CO2, CH4 and N2O. Measurements were made across a range of freshwater types within the tundra landscape, including lakes, ice-wedge polygons, and the ‘Siksik’ stream which drains the (c.a. 1 km2) primary study catchment. A nested sub-catchment approach was used along the ‘Siksik’ stream; ‘snapshot’ sampling of eight points along the stream length allowed specific vegetation communities to be targeted to assess individually their contribution to aquatic export. A combination of stable isotopes and major ion concentrations measured at each sampling point provide additional information to trace source areas and flow paths within the main study catchment.

Catchment scale evasion and downstream export were calculated and an initial comparison between the relative importance of different water body types presented.