Effects of active layer seasonal dynamics and plant phenology on CO2 land-atmosphere fluxes at polygonal tundra in the High Arctic, Svalbard

N. Cannone*, S. Ponti, H. H. Christiansen, T. R. Christensen, N. Pirk, M. Guglielmin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Terrestrial Arctic ecosystems play a key role in the global carbon (C) cycle, as they store a large amount of organic matter in permafrost. Among regions with continuous permafrost, Svalbard has one of the warmest permafrost and may provide a template of the environmental responses of Arctic regions to future climate change. We analyze the CO2 fluxes at a polygonal tundra site in Adventdalen (Svalbard) during one full growing season across a vegetation and environmental gradient to understand how the interaction of different abiotic (thaw depth, ground surface temperature (GST), soil moisture, photosynthetic active radiation - PAR) and biotic (leaf area index (LAI), and plant phenology) factors affect the CO2 fluxes and identify the drivers of Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE) and Ecosystem Respiration (ER). Three distinct periods (early, peak, and late) characterized the growing season based on plant phenology and the main environmental conditions. Comparing early, peak and late season, both NEE and ER exhibited specific patterns: ER shown high values since the early season, only slightly increased at peak, and then decreased drastically in the late season, with GST being the most important driver of ER. The drivers of NEE changed during the season: thaw depth, PAR and GST during the early season, LAI at peak, and PAR during the late season. These data allow to highlight that the thawing and freezing of the upper part of the active layer during the early and late season controls ER, possibly due to the response of microbial respiration in the upper part of the soil. Especially during the late season, despite the fully developed active layer (reaching its highest thawing depth), the freezing of the uppermost 2 cm of soil induced the drastic decrease of the respiratory efflux. In addition, the seasonal C balance of our plots indicated a seasonal source at our plots, in apparent contrast with previous eddy covariance (EC) measurements from a wetter area nearby. This difference implies that drier ecosystems act as sources while wetter ecosystems are sinks, suggesting that a drying trend in polygonal tundra could switch these ecosystems from CO2 sinks to sources in a feedback to future climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-153
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Continuous permafrost
  • Plant phenology
  • Seasonal changes
  • Soil hydrology
  • Thaw depth


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