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Accumulation of Methane in Permafrost-Affected Soils of Cryolithozone. P. 173–184

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Section: Geosciences




Gleb N. Kraev*, Elizaveta M. Rivkina**
*Centre of Forest Ecology and Productivity of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow, Russian Federation)
**Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow Region, Serpukhov District, Pushchino, Russian Federation)


Estimates of methane emission from Arctic wetlands remain highly uncertain, despite the increase in the quality and quantity of research. It is associated with high spatio-temporal variability of conditions favorable for biological methane production and oxidation, as well as with factors that determine diffusional transfer between soil and atmosphere. Thus, winter flux of methane, formed in conditions of soil freezing, is considered negligible. The data of single measurements make it possible to estimate its contribution to the annual methane exchange between the soil and the atmosphere of up to 25 %. We can confirm that part of methane is retained in the frozen soil. The amount and duration of methane conservation in permafrost-affected soils of northeastern Siberia are established. The methane content in the lower part of the seasonally thawed layer is on the average 1.4 cm3/kg. The concentration of methane in the transition layer of permafrost, thawing in certain warm years, reaches 15 cm3/kg. We have analyzed the contribution of biological and physical processes to identify possible sources of increased methane content: potential methane production in permafrost-affected soil and cryogenic squeezing of methane during freezing to the top of frozen soils. Both biological and cryogenic processes take part in the formation of horizons with a high content of methane. Methane accumulates during soil freezing, forming disjointed localized concentration maxima in areas where conditions favor its production and retention on the base of the active layer, rather than being distributed evenly. Methane can be stored in soil before its thawing. The flux of methane formed in seasonal and periodically thawed permafrost horizons under the conditions of the observed areas can reach 3 g/m2 per year.


permafrost, soil seasonal freezing, seasonally thawed layer thickness, cryolithorone, methane production, soil gas exchange, winter soil temperature
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