Priming effect stimulates carbon release from thawed permafrost

作  者:He M, Li QL, Chen LY, Qin SQ, Kuzyakov Y, Liu Y, Zhang DY, Feng XH, Kou D, Wu TH, Yang YH*
刊物名称:Global Change Biology
卷:  期:  页码:DOI: 10.1111/gcb.16750


Climate warming leads to widespread permafrost thaw with a fraction of the thawed permafrost carbon (C) being released as carbon dioxide (CO2), thus triggering a positive permafrost C-climate feedback. However, large uncertainty exists in the size of this model-projected feedback, partly owing to the limited understanding of permafrost CO2 release through the priming effect (i.e., the stimulation of soil organic matter decomposition by external C inputs) upon thaw. By combining permafrost sampling from 24 sites on the Tibetan Plateau and laboratory incubation, we detected an overall positive priming effect (an increase in soil C decomposition by up to 31%) upon permafrost thaw, which increased with permafrost C density (C storage per area). We then assessed the magnitude of thawed permafrost C under future climate scenarios by coupling increases in active layer thickness over half a century with spatial and vertical distributions of soil C density. The thawed C stocks in the top 3 m of soils from the present (2000–2015) to the future period (2061–2080) were estimated at 1.0 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.8–1.2) and 1.3 (95% CI: 1.0–1.7) Pg (1 Pg = 1015 g) C under moderate and high Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios 4.5 and 8.5, respectively. We further predicted permafrost priming effect potential (priming intensity under optimal conditions) based on the thawed C and the empirical relationship between the priming effect and permafrost C density. By the period 2061–2080, the regional priming potentials could be 8.8 (95% CI: 7.4–10.2) and 10.0 (95% CI: 8.3–11.6) Tg (1 Tg = 1012g) C year-1 under the RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 scenarios, respectively. This large CO2 emission potential induced by the priming effect highlights the complex permafrost C dynamics upon thaw, potentially reinforcing permafrost C-climate feedback.