Introduction

The Arctic region, the portion of the Northern Hemisphere lying north of the arctic tree line, covers a land area of approximately 7.2 x 106 km2. Approximately equal extents of most of this area (66%) occur in Canada and Russia, with lesser extents occurring in the United States (Alaska), Greenland and Scandinavia. Glaciers cover approximately 1.9 x 106 km2 (26%) of this land area, with most of the glaciers (92%) occurring in Greenland.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, German and Russian soil scientists carried out soil studies in the Eurasian Arctic region (Kvashnin-Samarin 1911; Sukachev 1911; Meinardus 1912; Blanck 1919). These scientists used primarily a geological approach to study Arctic soils. In the North American Arctic, Everett (1968), Leahey (1947), Tedrow and Douglas (1964) and Tedrow et al. (1968) carried out the early pedological studies in the Arctic. Although these North American scientists applied a pedological approach to their studies, they viewed these soils as merely frozen versions of temperate soils — formed by much weaker, but basically similar, processes to those taking place in unfrozen soils.

During the early 1970s, Canadian soil scientists carried out extensive pedological work in northern Canada. When they realized that the development of these soils was dominated by cryogenic processes, they developed the Cryosolic Order for the Canadian System of Soil Classification (Canada Soil Survey Committee 1978). This new approach was very quickly embraced by American soil scientists, and eventually led to the creation of the Gelisol soil order in the US Soil Taxonomy (Soil Survey Staff 1998). This concept enjoyed wide acceptance in Western Europe, and resulted in the establishment of the new Cryosolic major soil group for permafrost-affected soils in the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (Spaargaren 1994). The current state of knowledge about permafrost-affected soils was summarized by international experts in 37 papers in the book "Cryosols: Permafrost-Affected Soils" (Kimble 2004).

Charles Tarnocai

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Branch, 960 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Canada [email protected]

R. Margesin (ed.) Permafrost Soils, Soil Biology 16,

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-69371-0, © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

In this chapter the geological, physical and chemical properties of permafrost-affected soils in the Arctic region will be discussed, along with the cryogenic processes that produce their unique characteristics. In addition, data for selected Arctic soils are presented in Tables 1.1 and 1.2.

Table 1.1 Location and source of data for selected pedons

Pedon no.

Field no.

Area

Latitude (N)

Longitude

Source of data

1

12-89-22

Ellesmere Is.,

81° 23' 35"

76° 44' 30"

Tarnocai

Canada

W

(unpubl)

2

Isachsen 3

Ellef Ringnes

78° 47.098'

103° 33.125'.W

Ping (unpubl)

Is., Canada

3

12-81-26

Prince Patrick

76° 14'

119° 20' W

Tarnocai 2004

Is., Canada

4

DB-4

Bathurst Is.,

75° 40'

97° 41' W

Tarnocai 2004

Canada

5

SO1AK185006

Howe Is.,

70° 18.986'

147° 59.647' W

Ping (unpubl)

USA

6

94FN825009

Chersky,

69° 27' 49"

161° 45' 57" E

USDA Laba

Siberia,

Russia

7

N5b

Tuktoyaktuk,

69° 26'

133° 01' W

Pettapiece

Canada

et al. 1978

8

Y66

Yukon,

68° 55'

137° 50' W

Tarnocai

Canada

(unpubl)

a US Department of Agriculture Soil Laboratory, Lincoln, NE, USA

a US Department of Agriculture Soil Laboratory, Lincoln, NE, USA

Table 1.2 Site parameters for selected pedons

Pedon no.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Landforma

CB

DG

I

R

L

U

L

U

Drainageb

W

P

MW

W

I

MW

P

I

Parent materialc

C

GM

C

C

A

L

P

C

Depth to perma-

60

34

40

58

55

62

30

24

frost (cm)

Patterned groundd

NC

TH

NC

SP

NC

IWP

IWP

EH

Vegetatione

D

ML

MS

ML

LT

GST

ST

ST

Soil class. (Canada)f

RTC

CTC

OETC

OETC

OETC

GTC

MOC

GTC

Soil class. (US)g

TP

GAT

TUT

TUT

MT

TAT

TH

TAT

aLandform: CB colluvial blanket; DG dissected; I inclined; L level; R rolling; U undulating bDrainage: W well; MW moderately well; I imperfect; P poor cParent material: A alluvium; C colluvium; GM glaciomarine; L loess; P peat dPatterned ground: EH earth hummocks; IWP ice-wedge polygons; NC nonsorted circles; SP

small (15-40 cm diam) polygons; TH turf hummocks eVegetation: D dryas-sedge tundra; GST grass-shrub tundra; LT lichen-shrub tundra; ML moss-lichen-saxifrage tundra; MS moss-sedge-lichen-willow tundra; ST shrub tundra fSoil classification (Canada: Soil Classification Working Group 1998): CTC Glacic Turbic Cryosol; GTC Gleysolic Turbic Cryosol; MOC Mesic Organic Cryosol; OETC Orthic Eutric Turbic Cryosol; RTC Regosolic Turbic Cryosol gSoil classification (US: Soil Survey Staff 1998): GAT Glacic Aquaturbel; MT Molliturbel; TAT Typic Aquaturbel; TH Typic Hemistel; TP Typic Psammoturbel; TUT Typic Umbriturbel

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