Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Alaskan soil thaw sends carbon directly back into atmosphere

27.10.2015

Samples of permafrost soil from deep below the ground in an Alaskan tunnel are providing new clues in the quest to understand what exactly happens as northern regions of the world warm and begin to thaw.

FSU doctoral student Travis Drake and Florida State University Assistant Professor in Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences Robert Spencer write in a new paper that permafrost organic material is so biodegradable that as soon as it thaws, the carbon is almost immediately consumed by single-cell organisms called microbes and then released back into the air as carbon dioxide, feeding the global climate cycle. Their findings are laid out in an article published today by the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.


Researchers, including Assistant Professor Robert Spencer, collected samples of permafrost in tunnels operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Courtesy of Travis Drake

This is the first time scientists were able to quantify exactly how fast organic carbon from Alaskan permafrost is converted into carbon dioxide.

"This study really shows what makes permafrost so biodegradable," said Drake, who completed the work while still an employee at the U.S. Geological Survey and master's degree student at University of Colorado.

"Immediately upon thaw, microbes start using the carbon and then it is sent back into the atmosphere."

The permafrost examined in the study contained carbon that was 35,000 years old and had been stored frozen out of the carbon cycle until thawed. After 200 hours of thawing, almost half of it was gone, consumed by microbes and released back into the air as carbon dioxide.

"It's like feeding them chocolate," Spencer said. "You are giving them a food source that they really enjoy and is high in energy."

The results are troubling, of course, because increased carbon dioxide levels cause the Earth to warm and precipitate more thawing of permafrost.

Additionally, Alaskan permafrost contains one of the largest carbon stores in the world, and scientists have yet to totally understand what will happen to the air and water if vast amounts are released into it courtesy of thawing processes.

Researchers conducted most of the work in tunnels close to Fairbanks operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and collected samples of permafrost from the icy walls as new tunnels were excavated.

The team which includes scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Colorado plans a follow-up study to examine what happens in between the time the soil initially starts to thaw and the carbon is consumed by the microbes.

###

In addition to Spencer and Drake, other researchers on the project were Kim Wickland and Rob Striegl of the U.S. Geological Survey and Diane McKnight of University of Colorado Boulder. Drake first met Spencer while he was a student at University of Colorado conducting fieldwork in Siberia and then opted to come to FSU to study under Spencer for his doctorate.

The research was funded by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation.

Media Contact

Kathleen Haughney
khaughney@fsu.edu
850-644-1489

 @floridastate

http://www.fsu.edu 

Kathleen Haughney | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Researchers discover dust plays prominent role in nutrients of mountain forest ecoystems
29.03.2017 | University of Wyoming

nachricht More than 100 years of flooding and erosion in 1 event
28.03.2017 | Geological Society of America

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Periodic ventilation keeps more pollen out than tilted-open windows

29.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Researchers discover dust plays prominent role in nutrients of mountain forest ecoystems

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

OLED production facility from a single source

29.03.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>