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Arctic lowland landscapes have been modified by thermokarst lake processes throughout the Holocene. Thermokarst lakes form as a result of ice-rich permafrost degradation, and they may expand over time through thermal and mechanical shoreline erosion. We studied proximal and distal sedimentary records from a thermokarst lake located on the Arctic Coastal Plain of northern Alaska to reconstruct the impact of catchment dynamics and morphology on the lacustrine depositional environment and to quantify carbon accumulation in thermokarst lake sediments. Short cores were collected for analysis of pollen, sedimentological, and geochemical proxies. Radiocarbon and 210Pb/137Cs dating, as well as extrapolation of measured historic lake expansion rates, were applied to estimate a minimum lake age of ~1400 calendar years BP. The pollen record is in agreement with the young lake age as it does not include evidence of the ``alder high'' that occurred in the region ~4000 cal yr BP. The lake most likely initiated from a remnant pond in a drained thermokarst lake basin (DTLB) and deepened rapidly as evidenced by accumulation of laminated sediments. Increasing oxygenation of the water column as shown by higher Fe/Ti and Fe/S ratios in the sediment indicate shifts in ice regime with increasing water depth. More recently, the sediment source changed as the thermokarst lake expanded through lateral permafrost degradation, alternating from redeposited DTLB sediments, to increased amounts of sediment from eroding, older upland deposits, followed by a more balanced combination of both DTLB and upland sources. The characterizing shifts in sediment sources and depositional regimes in expanding thermokarst lakes were, therefore, archived in the thermokarst lake sedimentary record. This study also highlights the potential for Arctic lakes to recycle old carbon from thawing permafrost and thermokarst processes.
Lenz, J., Jones, B. M., Wetterich, S., Tjallingii, R., Fritz, M., Arp, C. D., … Grosse, G. (2016). Impacts of shore expansion and catchment characteristics on lacustrine thermokarst records in permafrost lowlands, Alaska Arctic Coastal Plain. Arktos, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41063-016-0025-0