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    Author(s): Jonathan A. O'Donnell; Vladimir E. Romanovsky; Jennifer W. Harden; A. David McGuire
    Date: 2009
    Source: Soil Science. 174(12): 646-651
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (1.8 MB)


    Organic soil horizons function as important controls on the thermal state of near-surface soil and permafrost in high-latitude ecosystems. The thermal conductivity of organic horizons is typically lower than mineral soils and is closely linked to moisture content, bulk density, and water phase. In this study, we examined the relationship between thermal conductivity and soil moisture for different moss and organic horizon types in black spruce ecosystems of interior Alaska. We sampled organic horizons from feather moss-dominated and Sphagnum-dominated stands and divided horizons into live moss and fibrous and amorphous organic matter. Thermal conductivity measurements were made across a range of moisture contents using the transient line heat source method. Our findings indicate a strong positive and linear relationship between thawed thermal conductivity (Kt) and volumetric water content. Live Sphagnum spp. had a higher range of Kt than did live feather moss because of the field capacity (laboratory based) of live Sphagnum spp. In northern regions, the thermal properties of organic soil horizons play a critical role in mediating the effects of climate warming on permafrost conditions. Findings from this study could improve model parameterization of thermal properties in organic horizons and enhance our understanding of future permafrost and ecosystem dynamics.

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    O'Donnell, Jonathan A.; Romanovsky, Vladimir E.; Harden, Jennifer W.; McGuire, A. David. 2009. The effect of moisture content on the thermal conductivity of moss and organic soil horizons from black spruce ecosystems in interior Alaska. Soil Science. 174(12): 646-651.


    thermal conductivity, soil moisture, black spruce, moss, boreal forest

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