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Thermokarst is the process whereby the thawing of ice-rich permafrost ground causes land subsidence, resulting in development of distinctive landforms. Accelerated thermokarst due to climate change will damage infrastructure, but also impact hydrology, ecology and biogeochemistry. Here, we present a circumpolar assessment of the distribution of thermokarst landscapes, defined as landscapes comprised of current thermokarst landforms and areas susceptible to future thermokarst development. At 3.6 × 106 km2, thermokarst landscapes are estimated to cover ∼20% of the northern permafrost region, with approximately equal contributions from three landscape types where characteristic wetland, lake and hillslope thermokarst...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature Communications
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Arctic tundra landscapes are composed of a complex mosaic of patterned ground features, varying in soil moisture, vegetation composition, and surface hydrology over small spatial scales (10–100 m). The importance of microtopography and associated geomorphic landforms in influencing ecosystem structure and function is well founded, however, spatial data products describing local to regional scale distribution of patterned ground or polygonal tundra geomorphology are largely unavailable. Thus, our understanding of local impacts on regional scale processes (e.g., carbon dynamics) may be limited. We produced two key spatiotemporal datasets spanning the Arctic Coastal Plain of northern Alaska (~60,000 km2) to evaluate...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Scientific Data
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This paper integrates dendrochronological, demographic, and experimental perspectives to improve understanding of the response of white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) tree growth to climatic variability in interior Alaska. The dendrochronological analyses indicate that climate warming has led to widespread declines in white spruce growth throughout interior Alaska that have become more prevalent during the 20th century. Similarly, demographic studies show that white spruce tree growth is substantially limited by soil moisture availability in both mid- and late-successional stands. Interannual variability in tree growth among stands within a landscape exhibits greater synchrony than does growth of trees that...
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Soil carbon dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems play a significant role in the global carbon cycle. Microbial-based decomposition models have seen much growth recently for quantifying this role, yet dormancy as a common strategy used by microorganisms has not usually been represented and tested in these models against field observations. Here we developed an explicit microbial-enzyme decomposition model and examined model performance with and without representation of microbial dormancy at six temperate forest sites of different forest types. We then extrapolated the model to global temperate forest ecosystems to investigate biogeochemical controls on soil heterotrophic respiration and microbial dormancy dynamics...
Abstract (from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12875/abstract): Permafrost thaw can alter the soil environment through changes in soil moisture, frequently resulting in soil saturation, a shift to anaerobic decomposition, and changes in the plant community. These changes, along with thawing of previously frozen organic material, can alter the form and magnitude of greenhouse gas production from permafrost ecosystems. We synthesized existing methane (CH 4) and carbon dioxide (CO 2) production measurements from anaerobic incubations of boreal and tundra soils from the geographic permafrost region to evaluate large-scale controls of anaerobic CO 2 and CH 4 production and compare the relative importance...
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Large quantities of organic carbon are stored in frozen soils (permafrost) within Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. A warming climate can induce environmental changes that accelerate the microbial breakdown of organic carbon and the release of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. This feedback can accelerate climate change, but the magnitude and timing of greenhouse gas emission from these regions and their impact on climate change remain uncertain. Here we find that current evidence suggests a gradual and prolonged release of greenhouse gas emissions in a warming climate and present a research strategy with which to target poorly understood aspects of permafrost carbon dynamics.
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Nature
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We summarize the results of a recent interagency assessment of land carbon dynamics in Alaska, in which carbon dynamics were estimated for all major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for the historical period (1950–2009) and a projection period (2010–2099). Between 1950 and 2009, upland and wetland (i.e., terrestrial) ecosystems of the state gained 0.4 Tg C/yr (0.1% of net primary production, NPP), resulting in a cumulative greenhouse gas radiative forcing of 1.68 × 10−3 W/m2. The change in carbon storage is spatially variable with the region of the Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) losing carbon because of fire disturbance. The combined carbon transport via various pathways through inland...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Ecological Applications
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Arctic tundra ecosystems have experienced unprecedented change associated with climate warming over recent decades. Across the Pan-Arctic, vegetation productivity and surface greenness have trended positively over the period of satellite observation. However, since 2011 these trends have slowed considerably, showing signs of browning in many regions. It is unclear what factors are driving this change and which regions/landforms will be most sensitive to future browning. Here we provide evidence linking decadal patterns in arctic greening and browning with regional climate change and local permafrost-driven landscape heterogeneity. We analyzed the spatial variability of decadal-scale trends in surface greenness across...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Scientific Reports
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Permafrost thaw in peat plateaus leads to the flooding of surface soils and the formation of collapse scar bogs, which have the potential to be large emitters of methane (CH4) from surface peat as well as deeper, previously frozen, permafrost carbon (C). We used a network of bubble traps, permanently installed 20 cm and 60 cm beneath the moss surface, to examine controls on ebullition from three collapse bogs in interior Alaska. Overall, ebullition was dominated by episodic events that were associated with changes in atmospheric pressure, and ebullition was mainly a surface process regulated by both seasonal ice dynamics and plant phenology. The majority (>90%) of ebullition occurred in surface peat layers, with...
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This paper assesses the resilience of Alaska’s boreal forest system to rapid climatic change. Recent warming is associated with reduced growth of dominant tree species, plant disease and insect outbreaks, warming and thawing of permafrost, drying of lakes, increased wildfire extent, increased postfire recruitment of deciduous trees, and reduced safety of hunters traveling on river ice. These changes have modified key structural features, feedbacks, and interactions in the boreal forest, including reduced effects of upland permafrost on regional hydrology, expansion of boreal forest into tundra, and amplification of climate warming because of reduced albedo (shorter winter season) and carbon release from wildfires....
Abstract: To test the effects of altered hydrology on organic soil decomposition, we investigated CO2 and CH4 production potential of rich-fen peat (mean surface pH = 6.3) collected from a field water table manipulation experiment including control, raised and lowered water table treatments. Mean anaerobic CO2 production potential at 10 cm depth (14.1 ± 0.9 μmol C g-1 d-1) was as high as aerobic CO2 production potential (10.6 ± 1.5 μmol C g-1 d-1), while CH4 production was low (mean of 7.8 ± 1.5 nmol C g-1 d-1). Denitrification enzyme activity indicated a very high denitrification potential (197 ± 23 μg N g-1 d-1), but net reduction suggested this was a relatively minor pathway for anaerobic CO2 production. Abundances...
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Scientific understanding of the global carbon cycle is required for developing national and international policy to mitigate fossil fuel CO2 emissions by managing terrestrial carbon uptake. Toward that understanding and as a contribution to the REgional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes (RECCAP) project, this paper provides a synthesis of net land–atmosphere CO2 exchange for North America (Canada, United States, and Mexico) over the period 1990–2009. Only CO2 is considered, not methane or other greenhouse gases. This synthesis is based on results from three different methods: atmospheric inversion, inventory-based methods and terrestrial biosphere modeling. All methods indicate that the North American land surface...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Biogeosciences
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Nitrogen cycle dynamics have the capacity to attenuate the magnitude of global terrestrial carbon sinks and sources driven by CO2 fertilization and changes in climate. In this study, two versions of the terrestrial carbon and nitrogen cycle components of the Integrated Science Assessment Model (ISAM) are used to evaluate how variation in nitrogen availability influences terrestrial carbon sinks and sources in response to changes over the 20th century in global environmental factors including atmospheric CO2 concentration, nitrogen inputs, temperature, precipitation and land use. The two versions of ISAM vary in their treatment of nitrogen availability: ISAM-NC has a terrestrial carbon cycle model coupled to a fully...
Abstract (from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016GB005548/full): Burn area and the frequency of extreme fire events have been increasing during recent decades in North America, and this trend is expected to continue over the 21st century. While many aspects of the North American carbon budget have been intensively studied, the net contribution of fire disturbance to the overall net carbon flux at the continental scale remains uncertain. Based on national scale, spatially explicit and long-term fire data, along with the improved model parameterization in a process-based ecosystem model, we simulated the impact of fire disturbance on both direct carbon emissions and net terrestrial ecosystem carbon balance...
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The permafrost component of the cryosphere is changing dramatically, but the permafrost region is not well monitored and the consequences of change are not well understood. Changing permafrost interacts with ecosystems and climate on various spatial and temporal scales. The feedbacks resulting from these interactions range from local impacts on topography, hydrology, and biology to complex influences on global scale biogeochemical cycling. This review contributes to this focus issue by synthesizing its 28 multidisciplinary studies which provide field evidence, remote sensing observations, and modeling results on various scales. We synthesize study results from a diverse range of permafrost landscapes and ecosystems...
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Conventional Q10 soil organic matter decomposition models and more complex microbial models are available for making projections of future soil carbon dynamics. However, it is unclear (1) how well the conceptually different approaches can simulate observed decomposition and (2) to what extent the trajectories of long-term simulations differ when using the different approaches. In this study, we compared three structurally different soil carbon (C) decomposition models (one Q10 and two microbial models of different complexity), each with a one- and two-horizon version. The models were calibrated and validated using 4 years of measurements of heterotrophic soil CO2 efflux from trenched plots in a Dahurian larch (Larix...
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The structure and function of Alaska's forests have changed significantly in response to a changing climate, including alterations in species composition and climate feedbacks (e.g., carbon, radiation budgets) that have important regional societal consequences and human feedbacks to forest ecosystems. In this paper we present the first comprehensive synthesis of climate-change impacts on all forested ecosystems of Alaska, highlighting changes in the most critical biophysical factors of each region. We developed a conceptual framework describing climate drivers, biophysical factors and types of change to illustrate how the biophysical and social subsystems of Alaskan forests interact and respond directly and indirectly...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Ecosphere
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We develop an approach for estimating net ecosystem exchange (NEE) using inventory-based information over North America (NA) for a recent 7-year period (ca. 2000–2006). The approach notably retains information on the spatial distribution of NEE, or the vertical exchange between land and atmosphere of all non-fossil fuel sources and sinks of CO2, while accounting for lateral transfers of forest and crop products as well as their eventual emissions. The total NEE estimate of a -327 ± 252 TgC yr-1 sink for NA was driven primarily by CO2 uptake in the Forest Lands sector (-248 TgC yr-1), largely in the Northwest and Southeast regions of the US, and in the Crop Lands sector (-297 TgC yr-1), predominantly in the Midwest...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Global Change Biology
Abstract (from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.13612/full): Rich fens are common boreal ecosystems with distinct hydrology, biogeochemistry and ecology that influence their carbon (C) balance. We present growing season soil chamber methane emission (FCH4), ecosystem respiration (ER), net ecosystem exchange (NEE) and gross primary production (GPP) fluxes from a 9-years water table manipulation experiment in an Alaskan rich fen. The study included major flood and drought years, where wetting and drying treatments further modified the severity of droughts. Results support previous findings from peatlands that drought causes reduced magnitude of growing season FCH4, GPP and NEE, thus reducing or reversing...