Event Title

Persistent Nitrogen Flux from Tundra Ten Years After Massive Wildfire

Presenter Information

Samuel Bratsman

Location

Logan Golf & Country Club, Logan, UT

Start Date

3-26-2019 5:00 PM

End Date

3-26-2019 7:00 PM

Description

Climate change is triggering widespread ecosystem disturbance across the permafrost zone, including rapidly increased incidence of tundra wildfire.Wildfire extent and intensity have, with unknown consequences for Arctic terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem biogeochemistry, as wildfire may cause terrestrial vegetation shifts, increasing productivity and nutrient demand; alternatively, wildfire regimes may intensify lateral nutrient loss from the landscapes into adjacent river networks. To address this unknown, we used the river network as a sensor, collecting water samples from 60 burned and unburned watersheds around the Anaktuvuk River fire scar in northern Alaska. We used a novel aerial sampling technique to collect samples three times during the flow seasons of 2017 and 2018, ten years after the wildfire. Despite a decade of ecosystem recovery, we observed nearly a doubling of total dissolved nitrogen concentration, primarily due to elevated organic nitrogen and secondarily from inorganic nitrogen increases. Isotopic analysis suggests that burn-mobilized lateral nitrogen flux comes from old soil nitrogen, not newly-fixed inputs from vegetation shifts. These findings indicate that tundra wildfire could destabilize nitrogen previously stored in permafrost, potentially exacerbating terrestrial nitrogen limitation and altering aquatic and estuarine ecosystems in the permafrost zone.

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Mar 26th, 5:00 PM Mar 26th, 7:00 PM

Persistent Nitrogen Flux from Tundra Ten Years After Massive Wildfire

Logan Golf & Country Club, Logan, UT

Climate change is triggering widespread ecosystem disturbance across the permafrost zone, including rapidly increased incidence of tundra wildfire.Wildfire extent and intensity have, with unknown consequences for Arctic terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem biogeochemistry, as wildfire may cause terrestrial vegetation shifts, increasing productivity and nutrient demand; alternatively, wildfire regimes may intensify lateral nutrient loss from the landscapes into adjacent river networks. To address this unknown, we used the river network as a sensor, collecting water samples from 60 burned and unburned watersheds around the Anaktuvuk River fire scar in northern Alaska. We used a novel aerial sampling technique to collect samples three times during the flow seasons of 2017 and 2018, ten years after the wildfire. Despite a decade of ecosystem recovery, we observed nearly a doubling of total dissolved nitrogen concentration, primarily due to elevated organic nitrogen and secondarily from inorganic nitrogen increases. Isotopic analysis suggests that burn-mobilized lateral nitrogen flux comes from old soil nitrogen, not newly-fixed inputs from vegetation shifts. These findings indicate that tundra wildfire could destabilize nitrogen previously stored in permafrost, potentially exacerbating terrestrial nitrogen limitation and altering aquatic and estuarine ecosystems in the permafrost zone.