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  1. Abstract The permafrost–fire–climate system has been a hotspot in research for decades under a warming climate scenario. Surface vegetation plays a dominant role in protecting permafrost from summer warmth, thus, any alteration of vegetation structure, particularly following severe wildfires, can cause dramatic top–down thaw. A challenge in understanding this is to quantify fire-induced thaw settlement at large scales (>1000 km 2 ). In this study, we explored the potential of using Landsat products for a large-scale estimation of fire-induced thaw settlement across a well-studied area representative of ice-rich lowland permafrost in interior Alaska. Six large fires have affected ∼1250 km 2 of the area since 2000. We first identified the linkage of fires, burn severity, and land cover response, and then developed an object-based machine learning ensemble approach to estimate fire-induced thaw settlement by relating airborne repeat lidar data to Landsat products. The model delineated thaw settlement patterns across the six fire scars and explained ∼65% of the variance in lidar-detected elevation change. Our results indicate a combined application of airborne repeat lidar and Landsat products is a valuable tool for large scale quantification of fire-induced thaw settlement. 
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  2. Abstract Permafrost underlies approximately one quarter of Northern Hemisphere terrestrial surfaces and contains 25–50% of the global soil carbon (C) pool. Permafrost soils and the C stocks within are vulnerable to ongoing and future projected climate warming. The biogeography of microbial communities inhabiting permafrost has not been examined beyond a small number of sites focused on local-scale variation. Permafrost is different from other soils. Perennially frozen conditions in permafrost dictate that microbial communities do not turn over quickly, thus possibly providing strong linkages to past environments. Thus, the factors structuring the composition and function of microbial communities may differ from patterns observed in other terrestrial environments. Here, we analyzed 133 permafrost metagenomes from North America, Europe, and Asia. Permafrost biodiversity and taxonomic distribution varied in relation to pH, latitude and soil depth. The distribution of genes differed by latitude, soil depth, age, and pH. Genes that were the most highly variable across all sites were associated with energy metabolism and C-assimilation. Specifically, methanogenesis, fermentation, nitrate reduction, and replenishment of citric acid cycle intermediates. This suggests that adaptations to energy acquisition and substrate availability are among some of the strongest selective pressures shaping permafrost microbial communities. The spatial variation in metabolic potential has primed communities for specific biogeochemical processes as soils thaw due to climate change, which could cause regional- to global- scale variation in C and nitrogen processing and greenhouse gas emissions. 
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  3. Abstract Alaska has diverse boreal ecosystems across heterogeneous landscapes driven by a wide range of biological and geomorphic processes associated with disturbance and successional patterns under a changing climate. To assess historical patterns and rates of change, we quantified the areal extent of ecotypes and the biophysical factors driving change through photo-interpretation of 2200 points on a time-series (∼1949, ∼1978, ∼2007, ∼2017) of geo-rectified imagery for 22 grids across central Alaska. Overall, 68.6% of the area had changes in ecotypes over ∼68 years. Most of the change resulted from increases in upland and lowland forest types, with an accompanying decrease in upland and lowland scrub types, as post-fire succession led to mid- and late-successional stages. Of 17 drivers of landscape change, fire was by far the largest, affecting 46.5% of the region overall from 1949 to 2017. Fire was notably more extensive in the early 1900s. Thermokarst nearly doubled from 3.9% in 1949 to 6.3% in 2017. Riverine ecotypes covered 7.8% area and showed dynamic changes related to channel migration and succession. Using past rates of ecotype transitions, we developed four state-transition models to project future ecotype extent based on historical rates, increasing temperatures, and driver associations. Ecotype changes from 2017 to 2100, nearly tripled for the driver-adjusted RCP6.0 temperature model (30.6%) compared to the historical rate model (11.5%), and the RCP4.5 (12.4%) and RCP8.0 (14.7%) temperature models. The historical-rate model projected 38 ecotypes will gain area and 24 will lose area by 2100. Overall, disturbance and recovery associated with a wide range of drivers across the patchy mosaic of differing aged ecotypes led to a fairly stable overall composition of most ecotypes over long intervals, although fire caused large temporal fluctuations for many ecotypes. Thermokarst, however, is accelerating and projected to have increasingly transformative effects on future ecotype distributions. 
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  4. Recent excavation in the new CRREL Permafrost Tunnel in Fox, Alaska provides a unique opportunity to study properties of Yedoma — late Pleistocene ice- and organic-rich syngenetic permafrost. Yedoma has been described at numerous sites across Interior Alaska, mainly within the Yukon-Tanana upland. The most comprehensive data on the structure and properties of Yedoma in this area have been obtained in the CRREL Permafrost Tunnel near Fairbanks — one of the most accessible large-scale exposures of Yedoma permafrost on Earth, which became available to researchers in the mid-1960s. Expansion of the new ∼4-m-high and ∼4-m-wide linear excavations, started in 2011 and ongoing, exposes an additional 300 m of well-preserved Yedoma and provides access to sediments deposited over the past 40,000 years, which will allow us to quantify rates and patterns of formation of syngenetic permafrost, depositional history and biogeochemical characteristics of Yedoma, and its response to a warmer climate. In this paper, we present results of detailed cryostratigraphic studies in the Tunnel and adjacent area. Data from our study include ground-ice content, the stable water isotope composition of the variety of ground-ice bodies, and radiocarbon age dates. Based on cryostratigraphic mapping of the Tunnel and results of drilling above and inside the Tunnel, six main cryostratigraphic units have been distinguished: 1) active layer; 2) modern intermediate layer (ice-rich silt); 3) relatively ice-poor Yedoma silt reworked by thermal erosion and thermokarst during the Holocene; 4) ice-rich late Pleistocene Yedoma silt with large ice wedges; 5) relatively ice-poor fluvial gravel; and 6) ice-poor bedrock. Our studies reveal significant differences in cryostratigraphy of the new and old CRREL Permafrost Tunnel facilities. Original syngenetic permafrost in the new Tunnel has been better preserved and less affected by erosional events during the period of Yedoma formation, although numerous features (e.g., bodies of thermokarst-cave ice, thaw unconformities, buried gullies) indicate the original Yedoma silt in the recently excavated sections was also reworked to some extent by thermokarst and thermal erosion during the late Pleistocene and Holocene. 
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  5. Temporal patterns in stream chemistry provide integrated signals describing the hydrological and ecological state of whole catchments. However, stream chemistry integrates multi-scale signals of processes occurring in both the catchment and stream. Deconvoluting these signals could identify mechanisms of solute transport and transformation and provide a basis for monitoring ecosystem change. We applied trend analysis, wavelet decomposition, multivariate autoregressive state-space modeling, and analysis of concentration–discharge relationships to assess temporal patterns in high-frequency (15 min) stream chemistry from permafrost-influenced boreal catchments in Interior Alaska at diel, storm, and seasonal time scales. We compared catchments that varied in spatial extent of permafrost to identify characteristic biogeochemical signals. Catchments with higher spatial extents of permafrost were characterized by increasing nitrate concentration through the thaw season, an abrupt increase in nitrate and fluorescent dissolved organic matter (fDOM) and declining conductivity in late summer, and flushing of nitrate and fDOM during summer rainstorms. In contrast, these patterns were absent, of lower magnitude, or reversed in catchments with lower permafrost extent. Solute dynamics revealed a positive influence of permafrost on fDOM export and the role of shallow, seasonally dynamic flowpaths in delivering solutes from high-permafrost catchments to streams. Lower spatial extent of permafrost resulted in static delivery of nitrate and limited transport of fDOM to streams. Shifts in concentration–discharge relationships and seasonal trends in stream chemistry toward less temporally dynamic patterns might therefore indicate reorganized catchment hydrology and biogeochemistry due to permafrost thaw. 
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  6. Abstract

    Permafrost degradation in peatlands is altering vegetation and soil properties and impacting net carbon storage. We studied four adjacent sites in Alaska with varied permafrost regimes, including a black spruce forest on a peat plateau with permafrost, two collapse scar bogs of different ages formed following thermokarst, and a rich fen without permafrost. Measurements included year‐round eddy covariance estimates of net carbon dioxide (CO2), mid‐April to October methane (CH4) emissions, and environmental variables. From 2011 to 2022, annual rainfall was above the historical average, snow water equivalent increased, and snow‐season duration shortened due to later snow return. Seasonally thawed active layer depths also increased. During this period, all ecosystems acted as slight annual sources of CO2(13–59 g C m−2 year−1) and stronger sources of CH4(11–14 g CH4 m−2from ~April to October). The interannual variability of net ecosystem exchange was high, approximately ±100 g C m−2 year−1, or twice what has been previously reported across other boreal sites. Net CO2release was positively related to increased summer rainfall and winter snow water equivalent and later snow return. Controls over CH4emissions were related to increased soil moisture and inundation status. The dominant emitter of carbon was the rich fen, which, in addition to being a source of CO2, was also the largest CH4emitter. These results suggest that the future carbon‐source strength of boreal lowlands in Interior Alaska may be determined by the area occupied by minerotrophic fens, which are expected to become more abundant as permafrost thaw increases hydrologic connectivity. Since our measurements occur within close proximity of each other (≤1 km2), this study also has implications for the spatial scale and data used in benchmarking carbon cycle models and emphasizes the necessity of long‐term measurements to identify carbon cycle process changes in a warming climate.

     
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