Arctic lakes play a smaller role in releasing ancient carbon than previously thought

The dry northern reaches of Earth contain nearly half of all of the carbon originating in living matter, mostly stored in the frozen soils of the permafrost. It has been long thought that warming in the Arctic will result in this carbon being released from the soil and activated again, through the many lakes that are prominent features of the Arctic. Now, a new study shows that more common lake-dominated landscapes in the Arctic do not in fact activate carbon. These lakes in flat and dry regions of the Arctic, making up a quarter of the Arctic, actually have food webs that rely mostly on carbon obtained from the atmosphere, and not on carbon obtained from the long-frozen soil. The new work was led by Matthew Bogard of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington, included SAFS professor Gordon Holtgrieve among the coauthors, and appears in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Previous studies in the Arctic have focused on lakes where thawing permafrost plays a large role and comprise only 9% of the northern landscape (beige circles), but the new study focuses on arid and flat landscapes that make up more than a quarter of the northern landscape (red circles).
Back to Top