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A Little-Realized Welcome Function of Permafrost-Affected Soils

Paper Reviewed
Lau, M.C.Y., Stackhouse, B.T., Layton, A.C., Chauhan, A., Vishnivetskaya, T.A., Chourey, K., Ronholm, J., Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Bennett, P.C., Larmarche-Gagnon, G., Burton, N., Pollard, W.H., Omelon, C.R., Medvigy, D.M., Hettich, R.L., Pfiffner, S.M., Whyte, L.G. and Onstott, T.C. 2015. An active atmospheric methane sink in high Arctic mineral cryosols. The International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal: 10.1038/ismej.2015.13.

In their intriguing new study, Lau et al. (2015) employed methane (CH4) flux measurements in both field and laboratory conditions to demonstrate that mineral cryosols (very cold permafrost-affected soils) at Axel Heiberg Island in the Canadian high Arctic consume significant amounts of this important "greenhouse gas." And how much one might ask? According to the scientists who conducted the work, they state that if the study site were ever to experience a 5°C-to-15°C increase in ground temperature, the CH4 sink strength would likely increase by a factor of 5-30, citing in addition to their work, in this regard, the study of Emmerton et al. (2014).

As for the source of this beneficent behavior of the Arctic cryosols they studied, the eighteen researchers additionally indicated that their study has provided "the first molecular evidence of active atmospheric CH4-oxidizing bacteria (atmMOB) in permafrost-affected cryosols, with the prevalent atmMOB genotype in our acidic mineral cryosols being closely related to an Upland Soil Cluster," all of which suggests the ubiquitous nature of atmMOB and implies their global significance.

Emmerton, C.A., St. Louis, V.L., Lehnherr, I., Humphreys, E.R., Rydz, E. and Kosolofski, H.R. 2014. The net exchange of methane with high Arctic landscapes during the summer growing season. Biogeosciences Discussions 11: 1673-1706.

Posted 11 November 2015