Abstract. The carbon cycle in Arctic-boreal regions (ABR) is an important component of the planetary carbon balance, with growing concerns about the consequences of ABR warming on the global climate system. The greatest uncertainty in annual carbon dioxide (CO2) budgets exists during the non-growing season, primarily due to challenges with data availability and limited spatial coverage in measurements. The goal of this study was to determine the main environmental controls of non-growing season CO2 fluxes in ABR over a latitudinal gradient (45° N to 69° N) featuring four different ecosystem types: closed-crown coniferous boreal forest, open-crown coniferous boreal forest, erect-shrub tundra, and prostrate-shrub tundra. CO2 fluxes calculated using a snowpack diffusion gradient method (n = 560) ranged from 0 to 1.05 gC m2 day-1. To assess the dominant environmental controls governing CO2 fluxes, a Random Forest machine learning approach was used. We identified that soil temperature as the main control of non-growing season CO2 fluxes with 68 % of relative model importance, except when soil liquid water occurred during zero degree Celsius curtain conditions (Tsoil ≈ 0 °C and liquid water coexists with ice in soil pores). Under zero-curtain conditions, liquid water content became the main control of CO2 fluxes with 87 % of relative model importance. We observed exponential regressions between CO2 fluxes and soil temperature (RMSE = 0.024 gC m-2 day-1) in frozen soils, as well as liquid water content (RMSE = 0.137 gC m-2 day-1) in zero-curtain conditions. This study is showing the role of several variables on the spatio-temporal variability of CO2 fluxes in ABR during the non-growing season and highlight that the complex vegetation-snow-soil interactions in northern environments must be considered when studying what drives the spatial variability of soil carbon emission during the non-growing season.
The overall spatial and temporal influence of shrub expansion on permafrost is largely unknown due to uncertainty in estimating the magnitude of many counteracting processes. For example, shrubs shade the ground during the snow-free season, which can reduce active layer thickness. At the same time, shrubs advance the timing of snowmelt when they protrude through the snow surface, thereby exposing the active layer to thawing earlier in spring. Here, we compare 3056 in situ frost table depth measurements split between mineral earth hummocks and organic inter-hummock zones across four dominant shrub–tundra vegetation types. Snow-free date, snow depth, hummock development, topography, and vegetation cover were compared to frost table depth measurements using a structural equation modeling approach that quantifies the direct and combined interacting influence of these variables. Areas of birch shrubs became snow free earlier regardless of snow depth or hillslope aspect because they protruded through the snow surface, leading to deeper hummock frost table depths. Projected increases in shrub height and extent combined with projected decreases in snowfall would lead to increased shrub protrusion across the Arctic, potentially deepening the active layer in areas where shrub protrusion advances the snow-free date.