NCEAS Project 12356

Permafrost and the global carbon cycle: A research and education synthesis towards understanding terrestrial feedbacks to climate change

  • Edward A.G. Schuur

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Sabbatical Fellow20th August 2009—5th June 2010Participant List  

At present, increasing greenhouse gases responsible for climate change are largely a result of human activities. However, climate change may alter the natural cycling of carbon (C) in ecosystems far from direct human influence. Because of the size and nature of the permafrost C pool, decomposition of previously frozen, old organic C is one of the most likely positive feedbacks from terrestrial ecosystems to climate change. Sustained transfers of C to the atmosphere that could cause a significant positive feedback from permafrost to climate change must come from ‘old’ C, which forms the bulk of the permafrost C pool. Radiocarbon measurements of ecosystem respiration losses provide the definitive proof of old C mobilization in natural ecosystems undergoing change. Two synthesis activities relating to this topic will be carried out as a sabbatical fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. The first activity consists of compiling and analyzing soil incubation data from the published literature to understand the relative climate forcing effect of methane and carbon dioxide released from decomposing permafrost C. The second activity is the organization and writing of an isotope textbook focused on the use radiocarbon in ecology and earth system science. This activity will synthesize 5 years of materials developed for a short course taught at the Keck Carbon Cycle Accelerator Mass Spectrometer facility at UC Irvine. Together these research and education synthesis activities will advance understanding of terrestrial ecosystem feedbacks to climate change.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Grosse, Guido; Harden, Jennifer W.; Turetsky, Merritt R.; McGuire, A. David; Camill, Philip; Tarnocai, Charles; Frolking, Steve; Schuur, Edward A.G.; Jorgenson, Torre; Marchenko, Sergei; Romanovsky, Vladimir; Wickland, Kimberly P.; French, Nancy; Waldrop, Mark P.; Bourgeau-Chavez, Laura; Striegl, Robert G. 2011. Vulnerability of high-latitude soil organic carbon in North America to disturbance. Journal of Geophysical Research. Vol: 116. Pages 1-23. (Online version)
Journal Article Kuhry, Peter; Dorrepaal, E.; Schuur, Edward A.G.; Tarnocai, Charles. 2010. Potential remobilization of belowground permafrost carbon under future global warming. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes. Vol: 21. Pages 208-214. (Online version)
Journal Article Lavoie, M.; Mack, Michelle C.; Schuur, Edward A.G. 2011. Effects of elevated nitrogen and temperature on carbon and nitrogen dynamics in Alaskan arctic and boreal soils. Journal of Geophysical Research. Vol: 116(G3). Pages 1-14. (Online version)
Journal Article Mack, Michelle C.; Bret-Harte, Syndonia; Hollingsworth, Teresa N.; Jandt, Randi R.; Schuur, Edward A.G.; Shaver, Gaius R.; Verbyla, David L. 2011. Carbon loss from an unprecedented Arctic tundra wildfire. Nature. Vol: 475(7357). Pages 489-492. (Online version)