PAGE21- Changing Permafrost in the Arctic and its Global Effects in the 21st Century

Principal investigator: Ass. Prof. Christina Biasi  / Project coordinator: Prof. Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten (AWI, Germany)

Funding period: 2011-2015 (Seventh Framework Programme; FP7)

The Arctic is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Carbon and nitrogen stored in permafrost regions represent one of the least understood and potentially most significant carbon-climate feedbacks because of the size of the carbon pools, the intensity of climate forcing at high latitudes and shifts in surface cover.

The main objective of the project is to better understand the processes and dynamics affecting the size of the Arctic permafrost carbon and nitrogen pools and assess their vulnerability to climate change. Research will draw on better integration of observations (in situ and remote sensing), and state-of-the-art models, including more accurate representation of permafrost dynamics and relevant processes (e.g. thermal, hydrological, biogeochemical) above and below ground in global models in order to improve the quantitative predictions of the feedback of Arctic carbon pools to climate change. The establishment and analysis of observations base datasets for model evaluation is an integral part of the work.

The project belongs to the 7th Framework Programme of European Commission and brings together 19 institutions and small enterprises from 11 different countries, and a large number of international partners in Canada, the USA, and Japan.

UEF (Biogeochemistry research group) will participate in WP4 on carbon and nitrogen emissions from permafrost. We will study greenhouse gas (CO2, N2O, CH4) exchange from permafrost affected surfaces and focus on the key driving factors. Important questions related to how much and from which sources CO2 and N2O are released will be addressed. Emphasis will be placed on studying N2O emissions and links between C and N cycling; large N2O emissions were recently identified for the first time from permafrost-affected soils by the group. One important aspect is to gain deeper knowhow on the spatial distribution and causes of the N2O release, which will provide the basis for better upscaling of N2O emissions in Arctic. Laboratory incubation studies and isotopic analysis (stable isotopes and radiocarbon) will be used to study the decomposability and origin of C and N. All data produced will be linked to process-based models on GHG dynamics from the Arctic. UEF will mainly work and coordinate research at the field site Vorkuta (Seida) in NW Russia.

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