Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Carbon dioxide biggest player in thawing permafrost

14.06.2016

Carbon dioxide emissions from dry and oxygen-rich environments will likely strengthen the climate forcing impact of thawing permafrost on top of methane release from oxygen-poor wetlands in the Arctic, according to a study in Nature Climate Change.

The study, published today, was led by Northern Arizona University assistant research professor, Christina Schädel. One of her collaborators is Evan Kane, an assistant professor of soils at Michigan Technological University.


To better understand the impact of methane and carbon dioxide on climate change, ecologist Evan Kane samples thawing permafrost in Alaska.

Credit: Michigan Tech, Evan Kane

"Having the chance to be involved with such a large collaboration is important," Kane says, adding that getting a more complete understanding of the impacts of thawing permafrost requires a lot of researchers. "With this study, we're able to look at the complexity of the changing permafrost environments and offer more insight into how the carbon they hold will react as they thaw."

Greenhouse Gases

Schädel's meta-analysis of 25 Arctic soil incubation studies found that both temperature and soil conditions affected the quantity of carbon released from thawing permafrost. A 10 °C increase in soil temperature released twice as much carbon into the atmosphere, and drier, aerobic soil conditions released more than three times more carbon than wetter, anaerobic soil conditions.

Most of that carbon was in the form of carbon dioxide, mixed with a surprisingly small amount of methane--only 5 percent of the total anaerobic products. This means that even though methane packs 34 times the climate warming punch of carbon dioxide, the small quantity released relative to carbon dioxide in anaerobic conditions makes wet soils less of a concern than dry soils.

"Our results show that increasing temperatures have a large effect on carbon release from permafrost but that changes in soil moisture conditions have an even greater effect," says Schädel. "We conclude that the permafrost carbon feedback will be stronger when a larger percentage of the permafrost zone undergoes thaw in a dry and oxygen-rich environment. "

Thawing Permafrost

Scientists in the international Permafrost Carbon Network that Schädel co-leads with Northern Arizona University professor of ecosystem ecology, Ted Schuur, provided much of the data.

Kane helped provide data on how altered hydrology, specifically flooding and drought, affects organic matter decomposition. He and his team observed that the carbon dioxide to methane ratios were impacted by dry or wet soils, with carbon dioxide production favored in drying and variable scenarios. The initial findings, included in the new meta-analysis, were originally published in Soil Biology & Biogeochemistry.

As the permafrost thaws, microbes wake up and begin digesting the newly available remains of ancient plants and animals stored as carbon in the soil. This digestion produces either carbon dioxide or methane, depending on soil conditions. Scientists want to understand the ratio of carbon dioxide to methane gas released by this process because it affects the strength of the permafrost carbon feedback loop: greenhouse gases released due to thawing permafrost cause temperatures to rise, leading to even more thawing and carbon release. Furthermore, the Arctic permafrost is like a vast underground storage tank of carbon, holding almost twice as much as the atmosphere. At that scale, small changes in how the carbon is released will have big effects.

Schädel zeroed in on two factors: soil temperature and the availability of oxygen. Soils in the lab were incubated at a range of warmer temperatures projected for the future. The availability of oxygen is important because it determines how microbes digest carbon. Oxygen-rich, or aerobic, conditions are found in dry soils and produce carbon dioxide. Oxygen-poor, or anaerobic, conditions are found in wet soils and produce both carbon dioxide and methane. Lab incubations mimicked these two conditions.

Will wet or dry soils dominate the future Arctic permafrost zone? The answer to this question is a big unknown. Schädel's work, however, will strengthen existing models of the permafrost ecosystem. Her work also highlights the need to monitor changes in wetness associated with permafrost thaw, changes that ultimately sculpt the topography of waterlogged depressions and dry uplands across the Arctic landscape.

Media Contact

Christina Schadel
Christina.Schaedel@nau.edu
928-523-9588

 @michigantech

http://www.mtu.edu 

Christina Schadel | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas
11.12.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht What makes corals sick?
11.12.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Midwife and signpost for photons

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>