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Christof Pearce

Remobilization of Old Permafrost Carbon to Chukchi Sea Sediments During the End of the Last Deglaciation

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  • Jannik Martens, Stockholm University
  • ,
  • Birgit Wild, Stockholm University
  • ,
  • Christof Pearce
  • Tommaso Tesi, Stockholm University, National Research Council
  • ,
  • August Andersson, Stockholm University
  • ,
  • Lisa Bröder, Stockholm University, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • ,
  • Matt O'Regan, Stockholm University
  • ,
  • Martin Jakobsson, Stockholm University
  • ,
  • Martin Sköld, Stockholm University
  • ,
  • Laura Gemery, United States Geological Survey
  • ,
  • Thomas M. Cronin, United States Geological Survey
  • ,
  • Igor Semiletov, Pacific Oceanological Institute, Tomsk National Research Polytechnic University, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • ,
  • Oleg V. Dudarev, Pacific Oceanological Institute, Tomsk National Research Polytechnic University
  • ,
  • Örjan Gustafsson, Stockholm University

Climate warming is expected to destabilize permafrost carbon (PF-C) by thaw-erosion and deepening of the seasonally thawed active layer and thereby promote PF-C mineralization to CO2 and CH4. A similar PF-C remobilization might have contributed to the increase in atmospheric CO2 during deglacial warming after the last glacial maximum. Using carbon isotopes and terrestrial biomarkers (Δ14C, δ13C, and lignin phenols), this study quantifies deposition of terrestrial carbon originating from permafrost in sediments from the Chukchi Sea (core SWERUS-L2-4-PC1). The sediment core reconstructs remobilization of permafrost carbon during the late Allerød warm period starting at 13,000 cal years before present (BP), the Younger Dryas, and the early Holocene warming until 11,000 cal years BP and compares this period with the late Holocene, from 3,650 years BP until present. Dual-carbon-isotope-based source apportionment demonstrates that Ice Complex Deposit—ice- and carbon-rich permafrost from the late Pleistocene (also referred to as Yedoma)—was the dominant source of organic carbon (66 ± 8%; mean ± standard deviation) to sediments during the end of the deglaciation, with fluxes more than twice as high (8.0 ± 4.6 g·m−2·year−1) as in the late Holocene (3.1 ± 1.0 g·m−2·year−1). These results are consistent with late deglacial PF-C remobilization observed in a Laptev Sea record, yet in contrast with PF-C sources, which at that location were dominated by active layer material from the Lena River watershed. Release of dormant PF-C from erosion of coastal permafrost during the end of the last deglaciation indicates vulnerability of Ice Complex Deposit in response to future warming and sea level changes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Pages (from-to)2-14
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

    Research areas

  • carbon isotope, climate change feedback, coastal erosion, deglaciation, past carbon cycling, permafrost

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