NCEAS Project 9781

Vulnerability of carbon in permafrost: Pool size and potential effects on the climate system

  • Christopher B. Field
  • Josep G. Canadell

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group28th—30th March 2006Participant List  
Working Group4th—6th December 2006Participant List  

Ecosystem responses that cause carbon loss to the atmosphere in a warming climate could greatly accelerate climate change during this century. Potentially vulnerable carbon pools that currently contain hundreds of billion tons of carbon could be destabilized through global warming and land use change. Some of the most vulnerable pools on land and oceans are: soil carbon in permafrost, soil carbon in high and low-latitude wetlands, biomass-carbon in forests, methane hydrates in the coastal zone, and ocean carbon concentrated by the biological pump. The risk of large losses from these pools is not well known, and is not included in most climate simulations. Preliminary analyses indicate a risk over the coming century that may be larger than 200 ppm of atmospheric CO2, rivaling the expected release from fossil fuel combustion. This proposal will quantify the carbon content of the vulnerable pools in permafrost soils and analyze the risk of large releases of carbon from these pools over this century.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Schuur, Edward A.G.; Bockheim, James; Canadell, Josep G.; Euskirchen, Eugenie; Field, Christopher B.; Goryachkin, Sergey V.; Hagemann, Stefan; Kuhry, Peter; Lafleur, Peter; Lee, Hanna; Mazhitova, Galina; Nelson, Frederick; Rinke, Annette; Romanovsky, Vladimir; Shiklomanov, Nikolay (Kolia); Tarnocai, Charles; Venevsky, Sergey; Vogel, Jason G.; Zimov, Sergei. 2008. Vulnerability of permafrost carbon to climate change: Implications for the global carbon cycle . BioScience. Vol: 58(8). Pages 701-714.
Journal Article Tarnocai, Charles; Canadell, Josep G.; Schuur, Edward A.G.; Kuhry, Peter; Mazhitova, Galina; Zimov, Sergei. 2009. Soil organic carbon pools in the northern circumpolar permafrost region. Global Biochemical Cycles. Vol: 23(2). Pages 1-11. (Online version)