Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Reviews and syntheses: Effects of permafrost thaw on Arctic aquatic ecosystems
Authors: Vonk, Jorien E
Tank, Suzanne E
Bowden, William B
Laurion, Isabelle
Vincent, Warwick F
Alekseychik, Pavel
Amyot, Marc
Billett, Michael
Canario, Joao
Cory, Rose M
Deshpande, Bethany N
Helbig, Manuel
Jammet, Mathilde
Karlsson, Jan
Larouche, Julia
Contact Email:
Issue Date: 8-Dec-2015
Publisher: Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union
Citation: Vonk JE, Tank SE, Bowden WB, Laurion I, Vincent WF, Alekseychik P, Amyot M, Billett M, Canario J, Cory RM, Deshpande BN, Helbig M, Jammet M, Karlsson J & Larouche J (2015) Reviews and syntheses: Effects of permafrost thaw on Arctic aquatic ecosystems, Biogeosciences, 12 (23), pp. 7129-7167.
Abstract: The Arctic is a water-rich region, with freshwater systems covering about 16 % of the northern permafrost landscape. Permafrost thaw creates new freshwater ecosystems, while at the same time modifying the existing lakes, streams, and rivers that are impacted by thaw. Here, we describe the current state of knowledge regarding how permafrost thaw affects lentic (still) and lotic (moving) systems, exploring the effects of both thermokarst (thawing and collapse of ice-rich permafrost) and deepening of the active layer (the surface soil layer that thaws and refreezes each year). Within thermokarst, we further differentiate between the effects of thermokarst in lowland areas vs. that on hillslopes. For almost all of the processes that we explore, the effects of thaw vary regionally, and between lake and stream systems. Much of this regional variation is caused by differences in ground ice content, topography, soil type, and permafrost coverage. Together, these modifying factors determine (i) the degree to which permafrost thaw manifests as thermokarst, (ii) whether thermokarst leads to slumping or the formation of thermokarst lakes, and (iii) the manner in which constituent delivery to freshwater systems is altered by thaw. Differences in thaw-enabled constituent delivery can be considerable, with these modifying factors determining, for example, the balance between delivery of particulate vs. dissolved constituents, and inorganic vs. organic materials. Changes in the composition of thaw-impacted waters, coupled with changes in lake morphology, can strongly affect the physical and optical properties of thermokarst lakes. The ecology of thaw-impacted lakes and streams is also likely to change; these systems have unique microbiological communities, and show differences in respiration, primary production, and food web structure that are largely driven by differences in sediment, dissolved organic matter, and nutrient delivery. The degree to which thaw enables the delivery of dissolved vs. particulate organic matter, coupled with the composition of that organic matter and the morphology and stratification characteristics of recipient systems will play an important role in determining the balance between the release of organic matter as greenhouse gases (CO2and CH4), its burial in sediments, and its loss downstream. The magnitude of thaw impacts on northern aquatic ecosystems is increasing, as is the prevalence of thaw-impacted lakes and streams. There is therefore an urgent need to quantify how permafrost thaw is affecting aquatic ecosystems across diverse Arctic landscapes, and the implications of this change for further climate warming.
Type: Journal Article
DOI Link:
Rights: © Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Notes: Additional co-authors: G. MacMillan, M. Rautio, K. M. Walter Anthony, and K. P. Wickland
Affiliation: Utrecht University
University of Alberta
University of Vermont
Universite Laval, Canada
Universite Laval, Canada
University of Helsinki
University of Montreal
Biological and Environmental Sciences
University of Lisbon
University of Michigan
Universite Laval, Canada
University of Montreal
University of Copenhagen
Umea University
University of Vermont

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Vonk et al_Biogeosciences_2015.pdf4.62 MBAdobe PDFView/Open

This item is protected by original copyright

Items in the Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.

If you believe that any material held in STORRE infringes copyright, please contact providing details and we will remove the Work from public display in STORRE and investigate your claim.