24 Oct 2023
 | 24 Oct 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Review article: A systematic review of terrestrial dissolved organic carbon in northern permafrost

Liam Heffernan, Dolly N. Kothawala, and Lars J. Tranvik

Abstract. As the permafrost region warms and permafrost soils thaw, vast pools of soil organic carbon (C) become vulnerable to enhanced microbial decomposition and lateral transport into aquatic ecosystems as dissolved organic carbon (DOC). The mobilization of permafrost soil C can drastically alter the net northern permafrost C budget. DOC entering aquatic ecosystems becomes biological available for degradation as well as other types of aquatic processing. However, it currently remains unclear which landscape characteristics are most relevant to consider in terms of predicting DOC concentrations entering aquatic systems from permafrost regions. Here, we conducted a systematic review of 111 studies relating to, or including, concentrations of DOC in terrestrial permafrost ecosystems in the northern circumpolar region published between 2000–2022. We present a new permafrost DOC dataset consisting of 2,276 DOC concentrations, collected from the top 3 m in permafrost soils across the northern circumpolar region. Concentrations of DOC ranged from 0.1–500 mg L-1 (median = 41 mg L-1) across all permafrost zones, ecoregions, soil types, and thermal horizons. DOC concentrations were greatest in the sporadic permafrost zone (101 mg L-1) while lower concentrations were found in the discontinuous (60 mg L-1) and continuous (59 mg L-1) permafrost zones. The highest median DOC concentrations of 66 mg L-1 and 63 mg L-1 were found in coastal tundra and permafrost bog ecosystems, respectively. Coastal tundra (130 mg L-1), permafrost bogs (78 mg L-1), and permafrost wetlands (57 mg L-1) had the highest DOC concentrations in the permafrost lens, representing a potentially long-term store of DOC. Other than in Yedoma ecosystems, DOC concentrations were found to increase following permafrost thaw and were highly constrained by total dissolved nitrogen concentrations. This systematic review highlights how DOC concentrations differ between organic- or mineral-rich deposits across the circumpolar permafrost region and identifies coastal tundra regions as areas of potentially important DOC mobilization. The quantity of permafrost-derived DOC exported laterally to aquatic ecosystems is an important step for predicting its vulnerability to decomposition.

Liam Heffernan et al.

Status: open (until 05 Dec 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2023-152', Anonymous Referee #1, 20 Nov 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2023-152', Anonymous Referee #2, 24 Nov 2023 reply
  • CC1: 'Comment on tc-2023-152', Tatiana Raudina, 01 Dec 2023 reply
  • RC3: 'Comment on tc-2023-152', Anonymous Referee #3, 04 Dec 2023 reply

Liam Heffernan et al.

Liam Heffernan et al.


Total article views: 180 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total Supplement BibTeX EndNote
116 54 10 180 21 3 5
  • HTML: 116
  • PDF: 54
  • XML: 10
  • Total: 180
  • Supplement: 21
  • BibTeX: 3
  • EndNote: 5
Views and downloads (calculated since 24 Oct 2023)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 24 Oct 2023)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 168 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 168 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1


Latest update: 04 Dec 2023
Short summary
The northern permafrost region stores half of the worlds soil carbon. As the region warms permafrost thaws and releases dissolved organic carbon, which leads to decomposition of this carbon pool or export into aquatic ecosystems. In this study we developed a new database of 2,276 dissolved organic carbon concentrations in 8 different ecosystems from 111 studies published over 22 years. This study highlights that coastal areas may play an important role in future high latitude carbon cycling.