Articles | Volume 9, issue 1
Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 9, 317–348, 2017

Special issue: Changing Permafrost in the Arctic and its Global Effects in...

Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 9, 317–348, 2017

Review article 06 Jun 2017

Review article | 06 Jun 2017

PeRL: a circum-Arctic Permafrost Region Pond and Lake database

Sina Muster1, Kurt Roth2, Moritz Langer3, Stephan Lange1, Fabio Cresto Aleina4, Annett Bartsch5, Anne Morgenstern1, Guido Grosse1, Benjamin Jones6, A. Britta K. Sannel7, Ylva Sjöberg7, Frank Günther1, Christian Andresen8, Alexandra Veremeeva9, Prajna R. Lindgren10, Frédéric Bouchard11,13, Mark J. Lara12, Daniel Fortier13, Simon Charbonneau13, Tarmo A. Virtanen14, Gustaf Hugelius7, Juri Palmtag7, Matthias B. Siewert7, William J. Riley15, Charles D. Koven15, and Julia Boike1 Sina Muster et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Telegrafenberg A43, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Institute for Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
  • 3Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
  • 4Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 5Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie and Geodynamik, Vienna, Austria
  • 6U.S. Geological Survey – Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK 99508, USA
  • 7Stockholm University, Department of Physical Geography and the Bolin Centre for Climate Research, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 8Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, USA
  • 9Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science, Russian Academy of Sciences, Pushchino, Russia
  • 10Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
  • 11Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Centre Eau Terre Environnement (ETE), Québec QC, G1K 9A9, Canada
  • 12Department of Plant Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
  • 13Geography Department, University of Montréal, Montréal QC, H3C 3J7, Canada
  • 14Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 15Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, USA

Abstract. Ponds and lakes are abundant in Arctic permafrost lowlands. They play an important role in Arctic wetland ecosystems by regulating carbon, water, and energy fluxes and providing freshwater habitats. However, ponds, i.e., waterbodies with surface areas smaller than 1. 0 × 104 m2, have not been inventoried on global and regional scales. The Permafrost Region Pond and Lake (PeRL) database presents the results of a circum-Arctic effort to map ponds and lakes from modern (2002–2013) high-resolution aerial and satellite imagery with a resolution of 5 m or better. The database also includes historical imagery from 1948 to 1965 with a resolution of 6 m or better. PeRL includes 69 maps covering a wide range of environmental conditions from tundra to boreal regions and from continuous to discontinuous permafrost zones. Waterbody maps are linked to regional permafrost landscape maps which provide information on permafrost extent, ground ice volume, geology, and lithology. This paper describes waterbody classification and accuracy, and presents statistics of waterbody distribution for each site. Maps of permafrost landscapes in Alaska, Canada, and Russia are used to extrapolate waterbody statistics from the site level to regional landscape units. PeRL presents pond and lake estimates for a total area of 1. 4 × 106 km2 across the Arctic, about 17 % of the Arctic lowland ( <  300 m a.s.l.) land surface area. PeRL waterbodies with sizes of 1. 0 × 106 m2 down to 1. 0 × 102 m2 contributed up to 21 % to the total water fraction. Waterbody density ranged from 1. 0 × 10 to 9. 4 × 101 km−2. Ponds are the dominant waterbody type by number in all landscapes representing 45–99 % of the total waterbody number. The implementation of PeRL size distributions in land surface models will greatly improve the investigation and projection of surface inundation and carbon fluxes in permafrost lowlands. Waterbody maps, study area boundaries, and maps of regional permafrost landscapes including detailed metadata are available at

Short summary
Waterbodies are abundant in Arctic permafrost lowlands. Most waterbodies are ponds with a surface area smaller than 100 x 100 m. The Permafrost Region Pond and Lake Database (PeRL) for the first time maps ponds as small as 10 x 10 m. PeRL maps can be used to document changes both by comparing them to historical and future imagery. The distribution of waterbodies in the Arctic is important to know in order to manage resources in the Arctic and to improve climate predictions in the Arctic.