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Thermokarst lake inception and development in syngenetic ice-wedge polygon terrain during a cooling climatic trend, Bylot Island (Nunavut), eastern Canadian Arctic.


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Bouchard, Frédéric; Fortier, Daniel; Paquette, Michel; Boucher, Vincent; Pienitz, Reinhard; Laurion, Isabelle (2020). Thermokarst lake inception and development in syngenetic ice-wedge polygon terrain during a cooling climatic trend, Bylot Island (Nunavut), eastern Canadian Arctic. The Cryosphere , vol. 14 , nº 8. p. 2607-2627. DOI: 10.5194/tc-14-2607-2020.

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Thermokarst lakes are widespread and diverse across permafrost regions, and they are considered significant contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. Paleoenvironmental reconstructions documenting the inception and development of these ecologically important water bodies are generally limited to Pleistocene-age permafrost deposits of Siberia, Alaska, and the western Canadian Arctic. Here we present the gradual transition from syngenetic ice-wedge polygon terrain to a thermokarst lake in Holocene sediments of the eastern Canadian Arctic. We combine geomorphological surveys with paleolimnological reconstructions from sediment cores in an effort to characterize local landscape evolution from a terrestrial to freshwater environment. Located on an ice- and organic-rich polygonal terrace, the studied lake is now evolving through active thermokarst, as revealed by subsiding and eroding shores, and was likely created by water pooling within a pre-existing topographic depression. Organic sedimentation in the valley started during the mid-Holocene, as documented by the oldest organic debris found at the base of one sediment core and dated at 4.8 kyr BP. Local sedimentation dynamics were initially controlled by fluctuations in wind activity, local moisture, and vegetation growth and accumulation, as shown by alternating loess (silt) and peat layers. Fossil diatom assemblages were likewise influenced by local hydro-climatic conditions and reflect a broad range of substrates available in the past (both terrestrial and aquatic). Such conditions likely prevailed until ∼2000 BP, when peat accumulation stopped as water ponded the surface of degrading ice-wedge polygons, and the basin progressively developed into a thermokarst lake. Interestingly, this happened in the middle of the Neoglacial cooling period, likely under colder-than-present but wetter-than-average conditions. Thereafter, the lake continued to develop as evidenced by the dominance of aquatic (both benthic and planktonic) diatom taxa in organic-rich lacustrine muds. Based on these interpretations, we present a four-stage conceptual model of thermokarst lake development during the late Holocene, including some potential future trajectories. Such a model could be applied to other formerly glaciated syngenetic permafrost landscapes.

Type de document: Article
Mots-clés libres: paléoclimat; île Bylot; Arctique canadien;
Centre: Centre Eau Terre Environnement
Date de dépôt: 25 sept. 2020 21:10
Dernière modification: 25 sept. 2020 21:10
URI: http://espace.inrs.ca/id/eprint/10383

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