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  1. Abstract

    Climate change is creating widespread ecosystem disturbance across the permafrost zone, including a rapid increase in the extent and severity of tundra wildfire. The expansion of this previously rare disturbance has unknown consequences for lateral nutrient flux from terrestrial to aquatic environments. Lateral loss of nutrients could reduce carbon uptake and slow recovery of already nutrient‐limited tundra ecosystems. To investigate the effects of tundra wildfire on lateral nutrient export, we analyzed water chemistry in and around the 10‐year‐old  Anaktuvuk River fire scar in northern Alaska. We collected water samples from 21 burned and 21 unburned watersheds during snowmelt, at peak growing season, and after plant senescence in 2017 and 2018. After a decade of ecosystem recovery, aboveground biomass had recovered in burned watersheds, but overall carbon and nitrogen remained ~20% lower, and the active layer remained ~10% deeper. Despite lower organic matter stocks, dissolved organic nutrients were substantially elevated in burned watersheds, with higher flow‐weighted concentrations of organic carbon (25% higher), organic nitrogen (59% higher), organic phosphorus (65% higher), and organic sulfur (47% higher). Geochemical proxies indicated greater interaction with mineral soils in watersheds with surface subsidence, but optical analysis and isotopes suggested that recent plant growth, not mineral soil, was the main source of organic nutrients in burned watersheds. Burned and unburned watersheds had similar δ15N‐NO3, indicating that exported nitrogen was of preburn origin (i.e., not recently fixed). Lateral nitrogen flux from burned watersheds was 2‐ to 10‐fold higher than rates of background nitrogen fixation and atmospheric deposition estimated in this area. These findings indicate that wildfire in Arctic tundra can destabilize nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur previously stored in permafrost via plant uptake and leaching. This plant‐mediated nutrient loss could exacerbate terrestrial nutrient limitation after disturbance or serve as an important nutrient release mechanism during succession.

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  2. Abstract

    Permafrost degradation is delivering bioavailable dissolved organic matter (DOM) and inorganic nutrients to surface water networks. While these permafrost subsidies represent a small portion of total fluvial DOM and nutrient fluxes, they could influence food webs and net ecosystem carbon balance via priming or nutrient effects that destabilize background DOM. We investigated how addition of biolabile carbon (acetate) and inorganic nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) affected DOM decomposition with 28‐day incubations. We incubated late‐summer stream water from 23 locations nested in seven northern or high‐altitude regions in Asia, Europe, and North America. DOM loss ranged from 3% to 52%, showing a variety of longitudinal patterns within stream networks. DOM optical properties varied widely, but DOM showed compositional similarity based on Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT‐ICR MS) analysis. Addition of acetate and nutrients decreased bulk DOM mineralization (i.e., negative priming), with more negative effects on biodegradable DOM but neutral or positive effects on stable DOM. Unexpectedly, acetate and nutrients triggered breakdown of colored DOM (CDOM), with median decreases of 1.6% in the control and 22% in the amended treatment. Additionally, the uptake of added acetate was strongly limited by nutrient availability across sites. These findings suggest that biolabile DOM and nutrients released from degrading permafrost may decrease background DOM mineralization but alter stoichiometry and light conditions in receiving waterbodies. We conclude that priming and nutrient effects are coupled in northern aquatic ecosystems and that quantifying two‐way interactions between DOM properties and environmental conditions could resolve conflicting observations about the drivers of DOM in permafrost zone waterways.

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