Articles | Volume 7, issue 1
Research article
29 Jan 2016
Research article |  | 29 Jan 2016

Stability and biodegradability of organic matter from Arctic soils of Western Siberia: insights from 13C-NMR spectroscopy and elemental analysis

E. Ejarque and E. Abakumov

Abstract. Arctic soils contain large amounts of organic matter which, globally, exceed the amount of carbon stored in vegetation biomass and in the atmosphere. Recent studies emphasise the potential sensitivity for this soil organic matter (SOM) to be mineralised when faced with increasing ambient temperatures. In order to better refine the predictions about the response of SOM to climate warming, there is a need to increase the spatial coverage of empirical data on SOM quantity and quality in the Arctic area. This study provides, for the first time, a characterisation of SOM from the Gydan Peninsula in the Yamal Region, Western Siberia, Russia. On the one hand, soil humic acids and their humification state were characterised by measuring the elemental composition and diversity of functional groups using solid-state 13C-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Also, the total mineralisable carbon was measured. Our results indicate that there is a predominance of aliphatic carbon structures, with a minimal variation of their functional-group composition both regionally and within soil depth. This vertical homogeneity and low level of aromaticity reflects the accumulation in soil of lowly decomposed organic matter due to cold temperatures. Mineralisation rates were found to be independent of SOM quality, and to be mainly explained solely by the total carbon content. Overall, our results provide further evidence on the sensitivity that the soils of Western Siberia may have to increasing ambient temperatures and highlight the important role that this region can play in the global carbon balance under the effects of climate warming.

Short summary
This study presents, for the first time, a characterisation of soil organic matter from the Gydan Peninsula in the Yamal Region, Western Siberia, Russia. We provide evidences that soils in this region accumulate lowly decomposed organic matter with a high mineralisation potential. This emphasises the vulnerability of this soil carbon pool to be remobilised as CO2 to the atmosphere under climate warming effects.