Article open access publication

Biogenic volatile release from permafrost thaw is determined by the soil microbial sink

Nature Communications, Springer Nature, ISSN 2041-1723

Volume 9, 1, 2018

DOI:10.1038/s41467-018-05824-y, Dimensions: pub.1106257067, PMC: PMC6109083, PMID: 30143640,


Albers, Christian N. (1) (2) (3)
Holst, Thomas (1) (4)

* Corresponding author



  1. (1) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU
  2. (2) Department of Geochemistry, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), Øster Voldgade 10, DK-1350, Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. (3) Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, grid.13508.3f
  4. (4) Lund University, grid.4514.4
  5. (5) Utrecht University, grid.5477.1








Warming in the Arctic accelerates thawing of permafrost-affected soils, which leads to a release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. We do not know whether permafrost thaw also releases non-methane volatile organic compounds that can contribute to both negative and positive radiative forcing on climate. Here we show using proton transfer reaction-time of flight-mass spectrometry that substantial amounts of ethanol and methanol and in total 316 organic ions were released from Greenlandic permafrost soils upon thaw in laboratory incubations. We demonstrate that the majority of this release is taken up in the active layer above. In an experiment using 14C-labeled ethanol and methanol, we demonstrate that these compounds are consumed by microorganisms. Our findings highlight that the thawing permafrost soils are not only a considerable source of volatile organic compounds but also that the active layer regulates their release into the atmosphere.


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