Permanent water bodies not only store dissolved CO2 but are essential for the maintenance of wetlands in their proximity. From the viewpoint of greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting wetland functions comprise sequestration of carbon under anaerobic conditions and methane release. The investigated area in central Siberia covers boreal and sub-arctic environments. Small inundated basins are abundant on the sub-arctic Taymir lowlands but also in parts of severe boreal climate where permafrost ice content is high and feature important freshwater ecosystems. Satellite radar imagery (ENVISAT ScanSAR), acquired in summer 2003 and 2004, has been used to derive open water surfaces with 150 m resolution, covering an area of approximately 3 Mkm2. The open water surface maps were derived using a simple threshold-based classification method. The results were assessed with Russian forest inventory data, which includes detailed information about water bodies. The resulting classification has been further used to estimate the extent of tundra wetlands and to determine their importance for methane emissions. Tundra wetlands cover 7% (400 000 km2) of the study region and methane emissions from hydromorphic soils are estimated to be 45 000 t d−1 for the Taymir peninsula.

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