Project description:Carbon release due to permafrost thaw represents a potentially major positive climate change feedback. The magnitude of carbon loss and the proportion lost as methane (CH4) vs. carbon dioxide (CO2) depend on factors including temperature, mobilization of previously frozen carbon, hydrology, and changes in organic matter chemistry associated with environmental responses to thaw. While the first three of these effects are relatively well understood, the effect of organic matter chemistry remains largely unstudied. To address this gap, we examined the biogeochemistry of peat and dissolved organic matter (DOM) along a ∼40-y permafrost thaw progression from recently- to fully thawed sites in Stordalen Mire (68.35°N, 19.05°E), a thawing peat plateau in northern Sweden. Thaw-induced subsidence and the resulting inundation along this progression led to succession in vegetation types accompanied by an evolution in organic matter chemistry. Peat C/N ratios decreased whereas humification rates increased, and DOM shifted toward lower molecular weight compounds with lower aromaticity, lower organic oxygen content, and more abundant microbially produced compounds. Corresponding changes in decomposition along this gradient included increasing CH4 and CO2 production potentials, higher relative CH4/CO2 ratios, and a shift in CH4 production pathway from CO2 reduction to acetate cleavage. These results imply that subsidence and thermokarst-associated increases in organic matter lability cause shifts in biogeochemical processes toward faster decomposition with an increasing proportion of carbon released as CH4. This impact of permafrost thaw on organic matter chemistry could intensify the predicted climate feedbacks of increasing temperatures, permafrost carbon mobilization, and hydrologic changes.
Project description:The fate of carbon sequestered in permafrost is a key concern for future global warming as this large carbon stock is rapidly becoming a net methane source due to widespread thaw. Methane release from permafrost is moderated by methanotrophs, which oxidise 20-60% of this methane before emission to the atmosphere. Despite the importance of methanotrophs to carbon cycling, these microorganisms are under-characterised and have not been studied across a natural permafrost thaw gradient. Here, we examine methanotroph communities from the active layer of a permafrost thaw gradient in Stordalen Mire (Abisko, Sweden) spanning three years, analysing 188 metagenomes and 24 metatranscriptomes paired with in situ biogeochemical data. Methanotroph community composition and activity varied significantly as thaw progressed from intact permafrost palsa, to partially thawed bog and fully thawed fen. Thirteen methanotroph population genomes were recovered, including two novel genomes belonging to the uncultivated upland soil cluster alpha (USC?) group and a novel potentially methanotrophic Hyphomicrobiaceae. Combined analysis of porewater ?13C-CH4 isotopes and methanotroph abundances showed methane oxidation was greatest below the oxic-anoxic interface in the bog. These results detail the direct effect of thaw on autochthonous methanotroph communities, and their consequent changes in population structure, activity and methane moderation potential.
Project description:The Northern high latitudes are warming twice as fast as the global average, and permafrost has become vulnerable to thaw. Changes to the environment during thaw leads to shifts in microbial communities and their associated functions, such as greenhouse gas emissions. Understanding the ecological processes that structure the identity and abundance (i.e., assembly) of pre- and post-thaw communities may improve predictions of the functional outcomes of permafrost thaw. We characterized microbial community assembly during permafrost thaw using <i>in situ</i> observations and a laboratory incubation of soils from the Storflaket Mire in Abisko, Sweden, where permafrost thaw has occurred over the past decade. <i>In situ</i> observations indicated that bacterial community assembly was driven by randomness (i.e., stochastic processes) immediately after thaw with drift and dispersal limitation being the dominant processes. As post-thaw succession progressed, environmentally driven (i.e., deterministic) processes became increasingly important in structuring microbial communities where homogenizing selection was the only process structuring upper active layer soils. Furthermore, laboratory-induced thaw reflected assembly dynamics immediately after thaw indicated by an increase in drift, but did not capture the long-term effects of permafrost thaw on microbial community dynamics. Our results did not reflect a link between assembly dynamics and carbon emissions, likely because respiration is the product of many processes in microbial communities. Identification of dominant microbial community assembly processes has the potential to improve our understanding of the ecological impact of permafrost thaw and the permafrost-climate feedback.