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Spatial variations and controlling factors of ground ice isotopes in permafrost areas of the central Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Wang, Weihua, Wu, Tonghua, Chen, Yaning, Li, Ren, Xie, Changwei, Qiao, Yongping, Zhu, Xiaofan, Hao, Junming, Ni, Jie
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.688 pp. 542-554
air temperature, biogeochemical cycles, climate change, ecosystems, fractionation, freeze-thaw cycles, hydrologic cycle, ice, oxygen, permafrost, soil depth, soil profiles, soil temperature, soil water, soil water movement, stable isotopes, thawing, tundra, China
Ground ice is a distinctive feature of permafrost, and its thawing under climate change can alter the regional hydrological and biogeochemical cycles. Spatial variations and determinants of ground ice isotopes are critical to understand subsurface water cycling during freeze-thaw process in the context of climate change, while they are not well known in permafrost region due to lack of field investigation. We examined spatial distributions and controlling factors of ground ice isotopes using data of 8 soil profiles surveyed in permafrost areas of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP). The stable isotope values (δ2H and δ18O) of subsurface water on the QTP were higher than those in Arctic tundra ecosystem and East Siberian permafrost region. Isotopic values of water components differed each other, and varied significantly among the sampling sites. The spatial distribution of isotopes was complex. Isotopes generally decreased with depth within the soil profile, implying a general isotope depth gradient across different permafrost-affected areas. Water source, evaporative and freeze-out fractionation, and cryoturbation affect soil water isotopes. Correlation analyses showed that δ2H and δ18O in soil water positively related to air temperature and soil temperature, while negatively related to soil moisture, depth, active layer thickness, vegetation coverage, elevation, and precipitation. Elevation and soil depth mainly controlled spatial distributions of ground ice isotopes. The results could provide a new insight into soil moisture movement and cycling during freeze-thaw process in the permafrost region of the QTP, which is helpful to understand subsurface water cycle mechanism in the context of permafrost degradation.