Carbon Balance in Warming and Drying Tundra 2016

Update

Now Archived! PolarConnect event with Karen Temple-Beamish and Marguerite Mauritz from Healy, Alaska. You can access this and other events on the PolarConnect Archives site: https://www.polartrec.com/polar-connect/archive

What Are They Doing?

The CiPEHR study site in early summer. Photo by John Wood.The CiPEHR study site in early summer. Photo by John Wood. The carbon cycle is the means by which carbon is moved between the world's soils, oceans, atmosphere, and living organisms. Northern tundra, permafrost, ecosystems play a key role in the carbon cycle because the cold, moist, and frozen soils trap organic material and slow their decomposition. This very slowly decaying organic material has caused carbon to build up in the Arctic during the past thousands of years. Historically, the tundra has stored large amounts of carbon because soil decomposition in permafrost was very slow. Now, warming in the Arctic is causing the permafrost to thaw and the tundra to become warmer and dryer. As the earth warms and permafrost thaws, this previously frozen carbon is released as carbon dioxide and goes into the atmosphere, turning the tundra into a source of carbon, rather than a sink. We are using carbon isotope techniques to measure how much carbon comes directly from soil decomposition and how much comes from plant respiration. This will help us understand more about the source/sink dynamics of the tundra. Little is known about respiration in the arctic winter, but our winter sampling is improving. With more data we will have a better idea of how much carbon is lost during the long, dark winter. Together our summer and winter data will help improve global carbon models by adding a more realistic representation of the Arctic. Because carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, any additional carbon dioxide lost from permafrost ecosystems creates a positive feedback that leads to even further warming.

More information about the project can be found here: https://www2.nau.edu/schuurlab-p/index.html

Where Are They?

The cabin near Healy, Alaska in winter. Photo by John Wood.The cabin near Healy, Alaska in winter. Photo by John Wood. The research team is based at a remote cabin near the small town of Healy, Alaska, about 100 miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska. The cabin functiones as both a research base and living quarters. There is no running water and all supplies have to be brought in either by snow machine or on foot, depending on conditions. The cabin is also home to a team of sled dogs, so things get pretty noisy around meal times. The sampling site, (Carbon in Permafrost Experimental Heating Research—CiPEHR) is a tundra ecosystem warming experiment located in Alaska's discontinuous permafrost zone.

Expedition Map

Expedition Resources

Project Information

Dates: 24 July 2016 to 16 August 2016
Location: Approximately 8 miles off the Parks highway, near Healy, Alaska
Project Funded Title: Carbon in Permafrost Experimental Heating and Drying Research (CiPEHR and DryPEHR): understanding the effect of warmer, drier conditions on permafrost thaw and carbon cycling

Journals

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Meet the Team

Karen Temple-Beamish's picture
Albuquerque Academy
Albuquerque, NM
United States

Karen Temple-Beamish has taught 8th grade Earth Systems Science and high school Environmental Biology at Albuquerque Academy for 18 years. In addition to teaching science, Karen is her school’s sustainability coordinator, environmental club sponsor and director of the Desert Oasis Teaching Garden. Karen has participated in the Woodrow Wilson Environmental Institute in Costa Rica and in the Japan Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program. More recently Karen has become an EE Capacity’s Community Climate Change Fellow, and a 2015 NOAA Climate Steward. Karen received the 2013 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. She has a B.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico and a M.S. in Environmental Science from Indiana University.

Marguerite Mauritz's picture
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, AZ
United States

Marguerite's research is focused on understanding how warmer temperatures and permafrost thaw will affect carbon losses from arctic tundra. Arctic permafrost soils store large amounts of carbon, which could be released to the atmosphere, in a warmer climate. We expect an increase in carbon losses as warmer conditions promote decomposition of carbon stored in permafrost soils. However, warming and thaw also promote plant growth, which can increase short-term carbon storage. The experiments at the Carbon in Permafrost Experimental Heating Research project (CiPEHR) were established in 2009 to disentangle these opposing factors, and gain a better understanding of arctic tundra carbon dynamics.

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Latest Comments

Meghan had purchased an icecream machine! The rubus was devine. Thanks for all your help.
I felt so well taken care of by everyone on the arcus team and of course the wonderful research team. I will miss them.
Eloquently written Karen! How was the Rubus ice cream and how was it made? Safe travels home!
Karen, Thanks for the great journals, live event, and beautiful photos. It looks like you had quite the experience. Have a safe trip home and we look forward to hearing from you in the future! Janet
I would think it would be harder to measure out a circle quadrat than a square one. I wonder what advantage the circle gives over a square one, in the end. Nice ptarmigan, she will be warm and...