Divergent changes in particulate and mineral-associated organic carbon upon permafrost thaw

Futing Liu, Shuqi Qin, Kai Fang, Leiyi Chen, Yunfeng Peng, Pete Smith, Yuanhe Yang* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Permafrost thaw can stimulate microbial decomposition and induce soil carbon (C) loss, potentially triggering a positive C-climate feedback. However, earlier observations have concentrated on bulk soil C dynamics upon permafrost thaw, with limited evidence involving soil C fractions. Here, we explore how the functionally distinct fractions, including particulate and mineral-associated organic C (POC and MAOC) as well as iron-bound organic C (OC-Fe), respond to permafrost thaw using systematic measurements derived from one permafrost thaw sequence and five additional thermokarst-impacted sites on the Tibetan Plateau. We find that topsoil POC content substantially decreases, while MAOC content remains stable and OC-Fe accumulates due to the enriched Fe oxides after permafrost thaw. Moreover, the proportion of MAOC and OC-Fe increases along the thaw sequence and at most of the thermokarst-impacted sites. The relatively enriched stable soil C fractions would alleviate microbial decomposition and weaken its feedback to climate warming over long-term thermokarst development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5073
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Early online date29 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2022


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