Greenhouse Gas Exchange in Small Arctic Thaw Ponds
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 2:40 PM
Arctic lakes and ponds can represent up to one quarter of the land surface in permafrost landscapes, particularly in lowland tundra landscapes characterized by ice wedge organic polygons. Thaw ponds can be defined as the aquatic ecosystems associated to thawing of organic soils, either resulting from active layer processes and located above low-center peat polygons (hereafter low-center polygonal or LCP ponds), or resulting from thermokarst slumping above melting ice wedges linked to the accelerated degradation of permafrost (hereafter ice-wedge trough or IWT ponds). These ponds can merge together forming larger water bodies, but with relatively stable shores (hereafter merged polygonal or MPG ponds), and with limnological characteristics similar to LCP ponds. These aquatic systems are very small and shallow, and present a different physical structure than the larger thermokarst lakes, generated after years of development and land subsidence. In a glacier valley on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada, thermokarst and kettle lakes together represent 29% of the aquatic area, with a thermal profile resembling those of more standard arctic lakes (mixed epilimnion). The IWT ponds (44% of the area) are stratified for a large fraction of the summer despite their shallowness, while LCP and MPG ponds (27% of the area) show a more homogeneous water column. This will affect gas exchange in these diverse aquatic systems, in addition to their unique microbiota and organic carbon lability that control the production and consumption rates of greenhouse gases. The stratification in IWT ponds generates hypoxic conditions at the bottom, and together with the larger availability of organic carbon, stimulates methanogenesis and limits the mitigating action of methanotrophs. Overall, thaw ponds are largely supersaturated in methane, with IWT ponds dominating the emissions in this landscape (92% of total aquatic emissions estimated for the same valley), and they present large variations in emission rates. Conventional wind-based models seem inappropriate to simulate GHG exchanges, as seen when comparing with floating chamber estimations. Surface renewal models that consider heat exchanges are used to estimate flux more accurately, and ebullition flux are measured with submerged funnels to compare with diffusive flux estimations.