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  1. Abstract Soils store more carbon than other terrestrial ecosystems 1,2 . How soil organic carbon (SOC) forms and persists remains uncertain 1,3 , which makes it challenging to understand how it will respond to climatic change 3,4 . It has been suggested that soil microorganisms play an important role in SOC formation, preservation and loss 5–7 . Although microorganisms affect the accumulation and loss of soil organic matter through many pathways 4,6,8–11 , microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE) is an integrative metric that can capture the balance of these processes 12,13 . Although CUE has the potential to act as a predictor of variation in SOC storage, the role of CUE in SOC persistence remains unresolved 7,14,15 . Here we examine the relationship between CUE and the preservation of SOC, and interactions with climate, vegetation and edaphic properties, using a combination of global-scale datasets, a microbial-process explicit model, data assimilation, deep learning and meta-analysis. We find that CUE is at least four times as important as other evaluated factors, such as carbon input, decomposition or vertical transport, in determining SOC storage and its spatial variation across the globe. In addition, CUE shows a positive correlation with SOC content. Our findings point to microbial CUE as a major determinant of global SOC storage. Understanding the microbial processes underlying CUE and their environmental dependence may help the prediction of SOC feedback to a changing climate. 
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  2. Rapid Arctic environmental change affects the entire Earth system as thawing permafrost ecosystems release greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Understanding how much permafrost carbon will be released, over what time frame, and what the relative emissions of carbon dioxide and methane will be is key for understanding the impact on global climate. In addition, the response of vegetation in a warming climate has the potential to offset at least some of the accelerating feedback to the climate from permafrost carbon. Temperature, organic carbon, and ground ice are key regulators for determining the impact of permafrost ecosystems on the global carbon cycle. Together, these encompass services of permafrost relevant to global society as well as to the people living in the region and help to determine the landscape-level response of this region to a changing climate. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Abstract

    The northern permafrost region has been projected to shift from a net sink to a net source of carbon under global warming. However, estimates of the contemporary net greenhouse gas (GHG) balance and budgets of the permafrost region remain highly uncertain. Here, we construct the first comprehensive bottom‐up budgets of CO2, CH4, and N2O across the terrestrial permafrost region using databases of more than 1000 in situ flux measurements and a land cover‐based ecosystem flux upscaling approach for the period 2000–2020. Estimates indicate that the permafrost region emitted a mean annual flux of 12 (−606, 661) Tg CO2–C yr−1, 38 (22, 53) Tg CH4–C yr−1, and 0.67 (0.07, 1.3) Tg N2O–N yr−1to the atmosphere throughout the period. Thus, the region was a net source of CH4and N2O, while the CO2balance was near neutral within its large uncertainties. Undisturbed terrestrial ecosystems had a CO2sink of −340 (−836, 156) Tg CO2–C yr−1. Vertical emissions from fire disturbances and inland waters largely offset the sink in vegetated ecosystems. When including lateral fluxes for a complete GHG budget, the permafrost region was a net source of C and N, releasing 144 (−506, 826) Tg C yr−1and 3 (2, 5) Tg N yr−1. Large uncertainty ranges in these estimates point to a need for further expansion of monitoring networks, continued data synthesis efforts, and better integration of field observations, remote sensing data, and ecosystem models to constrain the contemporary net GHG budgets of the permafrost region and track their future trajectory.

     
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  5. Climate change is an existential threat to the vast global permafrost domain. The diverse human cultures, ecological communities, and biogeochemical cycles of this tenth of the planet depend on the persistence of frozen conditions. The complexity, immensity, and remoteness of permafrost ecosystems make it difficult to grasp how quickly things are changing and what can be done about it. Here, we summarize terrestrial and marine changes in the permafrost domain with an eye toward global policy. While many questions remain, we know that continued fossil fuel burning is incompatible with the continued existence of the permafrost domain as we know it. If we fail to protect permafrost ecosystems, the consequences for human rights, biosphere integrity, and global climate will be severe. The policy implications are clear: the faster we reduce human emissions and draw down atmospheric CO 2 , the more of the permafrost domain we can save. Emissions reduction targets must be strengthened and accompanied by support for local peoples to protect intact ecological communities and natural carbon sinks within the permafrost domain. Some proposed geoengineering interventions such as solar shading, surface albedo modification, and vegetation manipulations are unproven and may exacerbate environmental injustice without providing lasting protection. Conversely, astounding advances in renewable energy have reopened viable pathways to halve human greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and effectively stop them well before 2050. We call on leaders, corporations, researchers, and citizens everywhere to acknowledge the global importance of the permafrost domain and work towards climate restoration and empowerment of Indigenous and immigrant communities in these regions. 
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  6. Ice-rich permafrost in the circum-Arctic and sub-Arctic (hereafter pan-Arctic), such as late Pleistocene Yedoma, are especially prone to degradation due to climate change or human activity. When Yedoma deposits thaw, large amounts of frozen organic matter and biogeochemically relevant elements return into current biogeochemical cycles. This mobilization of elements has local and global implications: increased thaw in thermokarst or thermal erosion settings enhances greenhouse gas fluxes from permafrost regions. In addition, this ice-rich ground is of special concern for infrastructure stability as the terrain surface settles along with thawing. Finally, understanding the distribution of the Yedoma domain area provides a window into the Pleistocene past and allows reconstruction of Ice Age environmental conditions and past mammoth-steppe landscapes. Therefore, a detailed assessment of the current pan-Arctic Yedoma coverage is of importance to estimate its potential contribution to permafrost-climate feedbacks, assess infrastructure vulnerabilities, and understand past environmental and permafrost dynamics. Building on previous mapping efforts, the objective of this paper is to compile the first digital pan-Arctic Yedoma map and spatial database of Yedoma coverage. Therefore, we 1) synthesized, analyzed, and digitized geological and stratigraphical maps allowing identification of Yedoma occurrence at all available scales, and 2) compiled field data and expert knowledge for creating Yedoma map confidence classes. We used GIS-techniques to vectorize maps and harmonize site information based on expert knowledge. We included a range of attributes for Yedoma areas based on lithological and stratigraphic information from the source maps and assigned three different confidence levels of the presence of Yedoma (confirmed, likely, or uncertain). Using a spatial buffer of 20 km around mapped Yedoma occurrences, we derived an extent of the Yedoma domain. Our result is a vector-based map of the current pan-Arctic Yedoma domain that covers approximately 2,587,000 km 2 , whereas Yedoma deposits are found within 480,000 km 2 of this region. We estimate that 35% of the total Yedoma area today is located in the tundra zone, and 65% in the taiga zone. With this Yedoma mapping, we outlined the substantial spatial extent of late Pleistocene Yedoma deposits and created a unique pan-Arctic dataset including confidence estimates. 
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  7. Northern peatlands have accumulated large stocks of organic carbon (C) and nitrogen (N), but their spatial distribution and vulnerability to climate warming remain uncertain. Here, we used machine-learning techniques with extensive peat core data ( n > 7,000) to create observation-based maps of northern peatland C and N stocks, and to assess their response to warming and permafrost thaw. We estimate that northern peatlands cover 3.7 ± 0.5 million km 2 and store 415 ± 150 Pg C and 10 ± 7 Pg N. Nearly half of the peatland area and peat C stocks are permafrost affected. Using modeled global warming stabilization scenarios (from 1.5 to 6 °C warming), we project that the current sink of atmospheric C (0.10 ± 0.02 Pg C⋅y −1 ) in northern peatlands will shift to a C source as 0.8 to 1.9 million km 2 of permafrost-affected peatlands thaw. The projected thaw would cause peatland greenhouse gas emissions equal to ∼1% of anthropogenic radiative forcing in this century. The main forcing is from methane emissions (0.7 to 3 Pg cumulative CH 4 -C) with smaller carbon dioxide forcing (1 to 2 Pg CO 2 -C) and minor nitrous oxide losses. We project that initial CO 2 -C losses reverse after ∼200 y, as warming strengthens peatland C-sinks. We project substantial, but highly uncertain, additional losses of peat into fluvial systems of 10 to 30 Pg C and 0.4 to 0.9 Pg N. The combined gaseous and fluvial peatland C loss estimated here adds 30 to 50% onto previous estimates of permafrost-thaw C losses, with southern permafrost regions being the most vulnerable. 
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  8. Climate warming is expected to mobilize northern permafrost and peat organic carbon (PP-C), yet magnitudes and system specifics of even current releases are poorly constrained. While part of the PP-C will degrade at point of thaw to CO 2 and CH 4 to directly amplify global warming, another part will enter the fluvial network, potentially providing a window to observe large-scale PP-C remobilization patterns. Here, we employ a decade-long, high-temporal resolution record of 14 C in dissolved and particulate organic carbon (DOC and POC, respectively) to deconvolute PP-C release in the large drainage basins of rivers across Siberia: Ob, Yenisey, Lena, and Kolyma. The 14 C-constrained estimate of export specifically from PP-C corresponds to only 17 ± 8% of total fluvial organic carbon and serves as a benchmark for monitoring changes to fluvial PP-C remobilization in a warming Arctic. Whereas DOC was dominated by recent organic carbon and poorly traced PP-C (12 ± 8%), POC carried a much stronger signature of PP-C (63 ± 10%) and represents the best window to detect spatial and temporal dynamics of PP-C release. Distinct seasonal patterns suggest that while DOC primarily stems from gradual leaching of surface soils, POC reflects abrupt collapse of deeper deposits. Higher dissolved PP-C export by Ob and Yenisey aligns with discontinuous permafrost that facilitates leaching, whereas higher particulate PP-C export by Lena and Kolyma likely echoes the thermokarst-induced collapse of Pleistocene deposits. Quantitative 14 C-based fingerprinting of fluvial organic carbon thus provides an opportunity to elucidate large-scale dynamics of PP-C remobilization in response to Arctic warming. 
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  9. null (Ed.)
    Large stocks of soil organic carbon (SOC) have accumulated in the Northern Hemisphere permafrost region, but their current amounts and future fate remain uncertain. By analyzing dataset combining >2700 soil profiles with environmental variables in a geospatial framework, we generated spatially explicit estimates of permafrost-region SOC stocks, quantified spatial heterogeneity, and identified key environmental predictors. We estimated that 1014 − 175 + 194 Pg C are stored in the top 3 m of permafrost region soils. The greatest uncertainties occurred in circumpolar toe-slope positions and in flat areas of the Tibetan region. We found that soil wetness index and elevation are the dominant topographic controllers and surface air temperature (circumpolar region) and precipitation (Tibetan region) are significant climatic controllers of SOC stocks. Our results provide first high-resolution geospatial assessment of permafrost region SOC stocks and their relationships with environmental factors, which are crucial for modeling the response of permafrost affected soils to changing climate. 
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