What Are They Doing?
This project examined the poorly-understood interaction of climate change and microbial methane production in wetland soils in the Lapland region of Finland. The research team conducted field and lab experiments to determine the role of arctic wetlands in global carbon cycling. Similar experiments have also been completed by the research group in the Alaskan arctic, making this project part of an investigation into the potential global-scale response of arctic wetlands to impending climate changes.
The Arctic is experiencing the most dramatic warming due to climate change of all global systems. As arctic soils warm, the resulting rise in microbial activity increases emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, further accelerating global climate change. Because the vast majority of global carbon is stored in soils, and soil carbon is in flux with atmospheric carbon, soil microbes can either alter or exacerbate climate changes.
Methane is a powerful, carbon-based greenhouse gas, and wetlands are the largest natural source of methane to the atmosphere, but factors that influence net methane emissions from arctic wetland soils are not well understood. The Lapland region of northern Finland offered an ideal research environment because it has carbon-rich arctic wetlands different from those that exist in North America, offering the opportunity to comparatively study the controls on methane flux from arctic wetland ecosystems. More generally, carbon cycling research is critical for building accurate global climate models, which inform social and international climate change mitigation policies.
Where Are They?
The research team worked in a large bog, approximately 20km south of the University of Turku’s Kevo Research Station in the Lapland region of northern Finland. The research station is a comfortable facility with modern amenities. The 25 km distance between the field station and the field site was traveled by car, followed by a short hike out to the wetlands that were measured. The field site consisted of 150 meters of wooden boardwalks across a series of smaller wet areas where researchers can walk and measure without standing within the wetlands themselves.
David Lipson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at San Diego State University. His research interests include soil microbial ecology, plant-microbe interactions, and linking microbial diversity to ecosystem processes.
Kim Miller is a graduate student in the Joint-Doctoral Program in ecology between San Diego State University and the University of California at Davis. She is finishing her fourth year of study for her PhD, which focuses on the ecological controls on methane cycling in arctic wetland soils. More specifically, she is interested in the potential competitive interactions between greenhouse gas-producing microbial communities in the changing and dynamic global arctic regions. Her research has been conducted in the arctic wetlands surrounding Barrow, Alaska since 2010. Kim received a Fulbright IIE Grant for graduate research in Finland for 2012-2013. She was also awarded an American-Scandinavian Association Fellowship for the same project, location and time period.
This project will continue to explore microbial community dynamics and wetland carbon cycling, but in a region of the Arctic with a vastly different biogeochemical soil structure and a lack of the persistent permafrost found in arctic Alaska.You can read more about Kim's research here and here.