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Geochemical drivers of organic matter decomposition in Arctic tundra soils...

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397 to 414

Climate change is warming tundra ecosystems in the Arctic, resulting in the decomposition of previously-frozen soil organic matter (SOM) and release of carbon (C) to the atmosphere; however, the processes that control SOM decomposition and C emissions remain highly uncertain. In this study, we evaluate geochemical factors that influence anaerobic production of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in the active layers of four ice-wedge polygons. Surface and soil pore waters were collected during the annual thaw season over a two-year period in an area containing waterlogged, low-centered polygons and well-drained, high-centered polygons. We report spatial and seasonal patterns of dissolved gases in relation to the geochemical properties of Fe and organic C as determined using spectroscopic and chromatographic techniques. Iron was present as Fe(II) in soil solution near the permafrost boundary but enriched as Fe(III) in the middle of the active layer, similar to dissolved aromatic-C and organic acids. Dissolved CH4 increased relative to dissolved CO2 with depth and varied with soil moisture in the middle of the active layer in patterns that were positively correlated with the proportion of dissolved Fe(III) in transitional and low-centered polygon soils but negatively correlated in the drier flat- and high-centered polygons. These results suggest that microbial-mediated Fe oxidation and reduction influence respiration/fermentation of SOM and production of substrates (e.g., low-molecular-weight organic acids) for methanogenesis. We infer that geochemical differences induced by water saturation dictate microbial products of SOM decomposition, and Fe geochemistry is an important factor regulating methanogenesis in anoxic tundra soils.