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Critical Permafrost

BNZ scientists have discovered that the thaw of permafrost induced by climate change is causing the rapid decomposition of previously frozen organic carbon in boreal forest soils. This CO2 release is likely to amplify climate warming to the same extent as land use change worldwide.

Schuur, E.A.G., J. Bockheim, J. Canadell, E. Euskirchen, C.B. Field, S.V Goryachkin, S. Hagemann, P. Kuhry, P. Lafleur, H. Lee, G. Mazhitova, F. E. Nelson, A. Rinke, V. Romanovsky, N. Shiklomanov, C. Tarnocai, S. Venevsky, J. G. Vogel, S.A. Zimov. 2008. Vulnerability of permafrost carbon to climate change: Implications for the global carbon cycle. BioScience 58: 701-714.
Schuur, E.A.G.*, J.G. Vogel*, K.G. Crummer, H. Lee, J.O. Sickman, and T.E. Osterkamp. 2009. The effect of permafrost thaw on old carbon release and net carbon exchange from tundra. Nature 459: 556-559. DOI: 10.1038/nature08031.
Tarnocai, C., J.G. Canadell, G. Mazhitova, E.A.G. Schuur, P. Kuhry, and S. Zimov. 2009. Soil Organic Carbon Pools in the Northern Circumpolar Permafrost Region. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, GB2023, doi:10.1029/2008GB003327.
Dr. Ted Schuur, University of Florida
Photograph of typical thermokarst feature in the Noatak Valley, Alaska.
Old carbon loss and its relationship to total ecosystem respiration for three sites that differ in the extent of permafrost thaw. Growing-season loss of old C from deeper in the soil profile, based on statistical partitioning estimates of mean proportional old C loss multiplied by ecosystem respiration (Reco) flux measurements. Error bars represent the spatial variability of Reco fluxes. The relationship between total Reco and proportional old C loss for the growing season across sites. Error bars represent the interannual variability in C loss estimates; the regression line is shown for n=3 sites.



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