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Experimental modeling of thaw lake water evolution in discontinuous permafrost zone: Role of peat, lichen leaching and ground fire

Manasypov, Rinat M., Shirokova, Liudmila S., Pokrovsky, Oleg S.
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.580 pp. 245-257
Cladonia, algae, aluminum, antimony, aquatic ecosystems, arsenic, biomass, burning, calcium, carbon, carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, coprecipitation, dissolved carbon dioxide, dissolved organic carbon, divalent metals, fires, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, ground vegetation, hydrolysates, iron, lakes, leaching, lichens, magnesium, manganese, models, molybdenum, peat, peatlands, permafrost, phosphorus, potassium, rubidium, silicon, submergence, tanks, titanium, uranium, Siberia
Thaw of frozen peat in discontinuous permafrost zone produces a significant number of thermokarst lakes, which are known to contribute to Green House Gases (GHG) emission in the atmosphere. In palsa peatland of western Siberia, the thermokarst lake formation includes soil subsidences, lichen submergence and peat abrasion, leading to lateral spreading of the lake border, often intensified by ground fires. Mesocosm experiments were conducted during 3weeks on two thermokarst lake waters interacting in 30-L tanks with surface horizon of peat, the dominant ground vegetation (lichen Cladonia sp.) and the ash produced by lichen burning at 450°C. The obtained results allowed a better understanding of physico-chemical factors controlling the enrichment of thermokarst lake water in organic carbon and metals, and evaluating CO2 sequestration/emission potential. The changes of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), major element and divalent metal concentration in response to peat and lichen biomass addition were less than a factor of 2 over full duration of the experiment. Iron (Fe) concentration in the lake water decreased by a factor of 2 to 3 after the addition of peat and lichen biomass. The concentration of low-soluble trivalent and tetravalent hydrolysates decreased by ca. 30 to 50%, presumably due to their co-precipitation with Fe hydroxide. The dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) in tank with lichen increased by a factor of 5.5±0.5, likely due to respiration of algal component in closed environment. Strong enrichment of the lake water in DIC, P, K, Ca, Mg, Si, Al, Ti, Mn, Mo, Rb, As, Sb and U upon the ash addition persisted over full duration of experiments and was significant (p<0.0001) compared to peat and lichen biomass treatments. These elements may serve as indicators of ground fire impact on thermokarst lake water's chemistry. The overall effect of ash leaching on aquatic ecosystems after ground fire of frozen Siberian peatland is predicted to be much stronger than that currently recognized for non-permafrost regions.