Landscape controls and vertical variability of soil organic carbon storage in permafrost-affected soils of the Lena River Delta

matthias.siewert [ at ]


To project the future development of the soil organic carbon (SOC) storage in permafrost environments, the spatial and vertical distribution of key soil properties and their landscape controls needs to be understood. This article reports findings from the Arctic Lena River Delta where we sampled 50 soil pedons. These were classified according to the U.S.D.A. Soil Taxonomy and fall mostly into the Gelisol soil order used for permafrost-affected soils. Soil profiles have been sampled for the active layer (mean depth 58 ± 10 cm) and the upper permafrost to one meter depth. We analyze SOC stocks and key soil properties, i.e. C%, N%, C/N, bulk density, visible ice and water content. These are compared for different landscape groupings of pedons according to geomorphology, soil and land cover and for different vertical depth increments. High vertical resolution plots are used to understand soil development. These show that SOC storage can be highly variable with depth. We recommend the treatment of permafrost-affected soils according to subdivisions into: the surface organic layer, mineral subsoil in the active layer, organic enriched cryoturbated or buried horizons and the mineral subsoil in the permafrost. The major geomorphological units of a subregion of the Lena River Delta were mapped with a land form classification using a data-fusion approach of optical satellite imagery and digital elevation data to upscale SOC storage. Landscape mean SOC storage is estimated to 19.2 ± 2.0 kg C m− 2. Our results show that the geomorphological setting explains more soil variability than soil taxonomy classes or vegetation cover. The soils from the oldest, Pleistocene aged, unit of the delta store the highest amount of SOC per m2 followed by the Holocene river terrace. The Pleistocene terrace affected by thermal-degradation, the recent floodplain and bare alluvial sediments store considerably less SOC in descending order.

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Primary Division
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Research Networks
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Eprint ID
DOI 10.1016/j.catena.2016.07.048

Cite as
Siewert, M. B. , Hugelius, G. , Heim, B. and Faucherre, S. (2016): Landscape controls and vertical variability of soil organic carbon storage in permafrost-affected soils of the Lena River Delta , CATENA, 147 , pp. 725-741 . doi: 10.1016/j.catena.2016.07.048

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Research Platforms

Arctic Land Expeditions > RU-Land_2013_Lena

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