Determinants of carbon release from the active layer and permafrost deposits on the Tibetan Plateau

Leiyi Chen, Junyi Liang, Shuqi Qin, Li Liu, Kai Fang, Yunping Xu, Jinzhi Ding, Fei Li, Yiqi Luo, Yuanhe Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


The sign and magnitude of permafrost carbon (C)-climate feedback are highly uncertain due to the limited understanding of the decomposability of thawing permafrost and relevant mechanistic controls over C release. Here, by combining aerobic incubation with biomarker analysis and a three-pool model, we reveal that C quality (represented by a higher amount of fast cycling C but a lower amount of recalcitrant C compounds) and normalized CO 2-C release in permafrost deposits were similar or even higher than those in the active layer, demonstrating a high vulnerability of C in Tibetan upland permafrost. We also illustrate that C quality exerts the most control over CO 2-C release from the active layer, whereas soil microbial abundance is more directly associated with CO 2-C release after permafrost thaw. Taken together, our findings highlight the importance of incorporating microbial properties into Earth System Models when predicting permafrost C dynamics under a changing environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13046
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - Oct 5 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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