Permafrost-affected soils have accumulated enormous pools of organic
matter during the Quaternary period. The area occupied by these soils
amounts to more than 8.6 million km(2), which is about 27% of all land
areas north of 50 degrees N. Therefore, permafrost-affected soils are
considered to be one of the important cryosphere elements within the
climate system. Due to the cryopedogenic processes that form these
particular soils and the overlying vegetation that is adapted to the
arctic climate, organic matter has accumulated to the present extent of
up to 1024 Pg (1 Pg = 10(15) g = 1 Gt) of soil organic carbon stored
within the uppermost 3m of ground. Considering the observed progressive
climate change and the projected polar amplification,
permafrost-affected soils will undergo fundamental property changes.
Higher turnover and mineralisation rates of the organic matter are
consequences of these changes, which are expected to result in an
increased release of climate-relevant trace gases into the atmosphere.
The controversy of whether permafrost regions continue accumulating
carbon or already function as a carbon source remains open until today.
An increased focus on this subject matter, especially in
under-represented Siberian regions, could contribute to a more robust
estimation of the soil organic carbon pool of permafrost regions and at
the same time improve the understanding of the carbon sink and source
functions of permafrost- affected soils.
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