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O'Donnell, Jonathan A.

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Peatlands in the northern permafrost region store large amounts of organic carbon, most of which is currently stored in frozen peat deposits. Recent warming at high-latitudes has accelerated permafrost thaw in peatlands, which will likely result in the loss of soil organic carbon from previously frozen peat deposits to the atmosphere. Here, we report soil organic carbon inventories, soil physical data, and field descriptions from a collapse-scar bog chronosequence located in a peatland ecosystem at Koyukuk Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
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Recent fire activity throughout Alaska has increased the need to understand postfire impacts on soils and permafrost vulnerability. Our study utilized data and modeling from a permafrost and ecosystem gradient to develop a mechanistic understanding of the short- and long-term impacts of tundra and boreal forest fires on soil thermal dynamics. Fires influenced a variety of factors that altered the surface energy budget, soil moisture, and the organic-layer thickness with the overall effect of increasing soil temperatures and thaw depth. The postfire thickness of the soil organic layer and its impact on soil thermal conductivity was the most important factor determining postfire soil temperatures and thaw depth. Boreal...
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Fire is a particularly important control on the carbon (C) balance of the boreal forest, and fire-return intervals and fire severity appear to have increased since the late 1900s in North America. In addition to the immediate release of stored C to the atmosphere through organic-matter combustion, fire also modifies soil conditions, possibly affecting C exchange between terrestrial and atmospheric pools for decades after the burn. The effects of fire on ecosystem C dynamics vary across the landscape, with topographic position and soil drainage functioning as important controls. The data reported here contributed to a larger U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study, published in the journal Ecosystems by O’Donnell...
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