Spatial Extent, Age, and Carbon Stocks in Drained Thaw Lake Basins on the Barrow Peninsula, Alaska
Kenneth M. Hinkel, Wendy R. Eisner, James G. Bockheim, Frederick E. Nelson, Kim M. Peterson, Xiaoyan Dai
Thaw lakes and drained thaw lake basins are ubiquitous on the Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska. Basins are wet depositional environments, ideally suited for the accumulation and preservation of organic material. Much of this soil organic carbon (SOC) is currently sequestered in the near-surface permafrost but, under a warming scenario, could become mobilized. The relative age of 77 basins on the Barrow Peninsula was estimated using the degree of plant community succession and verified by radiocarbon-dating material collected from the base of the organic layer in 21 basins. Using Landsat-7+ imagery of the region, a neural network classifying algorithm was developed from basin age-dependent spectra and texture. About 22% of the region is covered by 592 lakes (>1 ha), and at least 50% of the land surface is covered by 558 drained lake basins. Analysis of cores collected from basins indicates that (1) organic layer thickness and the degree of organic matter decomposition generally increases with basin age, and (2) SOC in the surface organic layer tends to increase with basin age, but the relation for the upper 100 cm of soil becomes obscured due to cryoturbation, organic matter decomposition, and processes leading to ice enrichment in the upper permafrost.