Scientists discovered that the Arctic landscape once colored with shades of white is now turning into shades of brown as it is experiencing a process called “browning.” This process occurs when the permafrost thaws and releases an organic carbon to the surface.
The findings of the study published in Limnology and Oceanography Letters indicate the effects of the thawing permafrost in the areas of the neighboring terrain. Isabelle Laurion, Ph.D., a biologist from the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in France and her colleagues, conducted the research, according to Inverse.
Climate change causes the melting of the permafrost as it warms the planet Earth. This phenomenon resulted in the “browning process,” in which the organic carbon in the permafrost has been released and seeped upward into the Arctic lakes and ponds. This system has transformed them into a muddy brown hue.
Dr. Laurion and her team said that the organic carbon seeping to the surface is good at absorbing sunlight, which could even warm the temperature more, which could cause the rate of thawing permafrost to increase rapidly. This occurrence could make the bodies of water darker and could affect some biological processes in these ecosystems, according to the study.
In the study, the researchers examined the various type of dissolved organic matter in 253 ponds around the North Pole. They found that the waters affected by thawing permafrost had much more terrestrial carbon and fewer algae, which is a significant component of the food chain in these waters. They said that their results suggest a robust earthly imprint on freshwater ecosystems in degrading ice-rich permafrost and would likely turn toward the increasing dominance of land-derived organic carbon in waters with ongoing permafrost thaw.
They also stated that land-derived organic carbon is having a growing influence on the Arctic and subarctic ponds that carry over into the food web. The researchers concluded that the browning process could lead to depletion of the oxygen and colder water at the bottom of the ponds. This process could have influences on the microbial activity that is responsible for the production and consumption of greenhouse gases, mainly in generating methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.