Calcium isotopic compositions as tracers of vegetation activity in boreal permafrost ecosystems (Kulingdakan watershed, Central Siberia)

Bagard, M.; Schmitt, A.; Chabaux, F.; Viers, J.; Prokrovsky, O.; Prokushkin, A. S.; Stille, P. and Dupré, B. (2010). Calcium isotopic compositions as tracers of vegetation activity in boreal permafrost ecosystems (Kulingdakan watershed, Central Siberia). In: 2010 AGU Fall Meeting, 13-17 Dec 2010, San Francisco, CA, USA.

URL: http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm10/

Abstract

In this work, we propose to investigate the geochemical potential of calcium isotopic fractionations in a forested boreal watershed to trace the impact of vegetation activity. This is the first study carried out in a geographical area characterized by deep and continuous permafrost. For this survey, we measured Ca and Sr isotopic compositions in the different compartments (stream waters, soil solutions, precipitations, rock, soils and soil leachates, vegetation) of a 4,100 ha Siberian watershed, the Kulingdakan watershed (Putorana Plateau, Central Siberia). Our results show that the activity of the vegetation is the only process that fractionates significantly calcium isotopes within the watershed. Indeed, Ca uptake by plants and its subsequent storage in larch tree organs favours 40Ca relatively to 44Ca. Vegetation decomposition releases light δ44/40Ca that affects calcium isotopic compositions of soil solution and soil exchangeable fractions. However, this biological impact is significant only for the South-facing slope of the watershed. Indeed, soil pools from the North-facing slope present no imprint of organic matter degradation in their δ44/40Ca signatures. Furthermore, the major difference between south- and north-facing slopes lies in the importance of the vegetation and its decomposition rate. Thus, we propose that in boreal permafrost areas with limited runoff, the available stock of biomass is critical to induce or not a significant vegetation impact on the calcium isotopic compositions in the soil-water system. As a consequence, the study of preserved calcium isotopic compositions in paleosoil exchangeable phases might bring relevant information on the evolution of biological activity at the watershed scale.

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