skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on January 24, 2023

Title: Permafrost thaw driven changes in hydrology and vegetation cover increase trace gas emissions and climate forcing in Stordalen Mire from 1970 to 2014
Permafrost thaw increases active layer thickness, changes landscape hydrology and influences vegetation species composition. These changes alter belowground microbial and geochemical processes, affecting production, consumption and net emission rates of climate forcing trace gases. Net carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and methane (CH 4 ) fluxes determine the radiative forcing contribution from these climate-sensitive ecosystems. Permafrost peatlands may be a mosaic of dry frozen hummocks, semi-thawed or perched sphagnum dominated areas, wet permafrost-free sedge dominated sites and open water ponds. We revisited estimates of climate forcing made for 1970 and 2000 for Stordalen Mire in northern Sweden and found the trend of increasing forcing continued into 2014. The Mire continued to transition from dry permafrost to sedge and open water areas, increasing by 100% and 35%, respectively, over the 45-year period, causing the net radiative forcing of Stordalen Mire to shift from negative to positive. This trend is driven by transitioning vegetation community composition, improved estimates of annual CO 2 and CH 4 exchange and a 22% increase in the IPCC's 100-year global warming potential (GWP_100) value for CH 4 . These results indicate that discontinuous permafrost ecosystems, while still remaining a net overall sink of C, can become a more » positive feedback to climate change on decadal timescales. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue ‘Rising methane: is warming feeding warming? (part 2)’. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
2022070 1802825
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10324971
Journal Name:
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Volume:
380
Issue:
2215
ISSN:
1364-503X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Grassland ecosystems play an essential role in climate regulation through carbon (C) storage in plant and soil. But, anthropogenic practices such as livestock grazing, grazing related excreta nitrogen (N) deposition, and manure/fertilizer N application have the potential to reduce the effectiveness of grassland C sink through increased nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) emissions. Although the effect of anthropogenic activities on net greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes in grassland ecosystems have been investigated at local to regional scales, estimates of net GHG balance at the global scale remains uncertain. With the data-model framework integrating empirical estimates of livestock CH4emissions with process-based modeling estimates of land CO2, N2O and CH4fluxes, we examined the overall global warming potential (GWP) of grassland ecosystems during 1961–2010. We then quantified the grassland-specific and regional variations to identify hotspots of GHG fluxes. Our results show that, over a 100-year time horizon, grassland ecosystems sequestered a cumulative total of 113.9 Pg CO2-eq in plant and soil, but then released 91.9 Pg CO2-eq to the atmosphere, offsetting 81% of the net CO2sink. We also found large grassland-specific variations in net GHG fluxes, withpasturelandsacting as a small GHG source of 1.52 ± 143 Tg CO2-eq yr−1(mean ± 1.0 s.d.)more »andrangelandsa strong GHG sink (−442 ± 266 Tg CO2-eq yr−1) during 1961–2010. Regionally, Europe acted as a GHG source of 23 ± 10 Tg CO2-eq yr−1, while other regions (i.e. Africa, Southern Asia) were strong GHG sinks during 2001–2010. Our study highlights the importance of considering regional and grassland-specific differences in GHG fluxes for guiding future management and climate mitigation strategies in global grasslands.

    « less
  2. Northern peatlands have accumulated large stocks of organic carbon (C) and nitrogen (N), but their spatial distribution and vulnerability to climate warming remain uncertain. Here, we used machine-learning techniques with extensive peat core data ( n > 7,000) to create observation-based maps of northern peatland C and N stocks, and to assess their response to warming and permafrost thaw. We estimate that northern peatlands cover 3.7 ± 0.5 million km 2 and store 415 ± 150 Pg C and 10 ± 7 Pg N. Nearly half of the peatland area and peat C stocks are permafrost affected. Using modeled global warming stabilization scenarios (from 1.5 to 6 °C warming), we project that the current sink of atmospheric C (0.10 ± 0.02 Pg C⋅y −1 ) in northern peatlands will shift to a C source as 0.8 to 1.9 million km 2 of permafrost-affected peatlands thaw. The projected thaw would cause peatland greenhouse gas emissions equal to ∼1% of anthropogenic radiative forcing in this century. The main forcing is from methane emissions (0.7 to 3 Pg cumulative CH 4 -C) with smaller carbon dioxide forcing (1 to 2 Pg CO 2 -C) and minor nitrous oxide losses. We project that initialmore »CO 2 -C losses reverse after ∼200 y, as warming strengthens peatland C-sinks. We project substantial, but highly uncertain, additional losses of peat into fluvial systems of 10 to 30 Pg C and 0.4 to 0.9 Pg N. The combined gaseous and fluvial peatland C loss estimated here adds 30 to 50% onto previous estimates of permafrost-thaw C losses, with southern permafrost regions being the most vulnerable.« less
  3. Abstract

    Thermokarst lakes accelerate deep permafrost thaw and the mobilization of previously frozen soil organic carbon. This leads to microbial decomposition and large releases of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) that enhance climate warming. However, the time scale of permafrost-carbon emissions following thaw is not well known but is important for understanding how abrupt permafrost thaw impacts climate feedback. We combined field measurements and radiocarbon dating of CH4ebullition with (a) an assessment of lake area changes delineated from high-resolution (1–2.5 m) optical imagery and (b) geophysical measurements of thaw bulbs (taliks) to determine the spatiotemporal dynamics of hotspot-seep CH4ebullition in interior Alaska thermokarst lakes. Hotspot seeps are characterized as point-sources of high ebullition that release14C-depleted CH4from deep (up to tens of meters) within lake thaw bulbs year-round. Thermokarst lakes, initiated by a variety of factors, doubled in number and increased 37.5% in area from 1949 to 2009 as climate warmed. Approximately 80% of contemporary CH4hotspot seeps were associated with this recent thermokarst activity, occurring where 60 years of abrupt thaw took place as a result of new and expanded lake areas. Hotspot occurrence diminished with distance from thermokarst lake margins. We attribute older14C ages of CH4released from hotspot seepsmore »in older, expanding thermokarst lakes (14CCH420 079 ± 1227 years BP, mean ± standard error (s.e.m.) years) to deeper taliks (thaw bulbs) compared to younger14CCH4in new lakes (14CCH48526 ± 741 years BP) with shallower taliks. We find that smaller, non-hotspot ebullition seeps have younger14C ages (expanding lakes 7473 ± 1762 years; new lakes 4742 ± 803 years) and that their emissions span a larger historic range. These observations provide a first-order constraint on the magnitude and decadal-scale duration of CH4-hotspot seep emissions following formation of thermokarst lakes as climate warms.

    « less
  4. Abstract

    The processes controlling idealized warming and cooling patterns are examined in 150-yr-long fully coupled Community Earth System Model, version 1 (CESM1), experiments under abrupt CO2forcing. By simulation end, 2 × CO2global warming was 20% larger than 0.5 × CO2global cooling. Not only was the absolute global effective radiative forcing ∼10% larger for 2 × CO2than for 0.5 × CO2, global feedbacks were also less negative for 2 × CO2than for 0.5 × CO2. Specifically, more positive shortwave cloud feedbacks led to more 2 × CO2global warming than 0.5 × CO2global cooling. Over high-latitude oceans, differences between 2 × CO2warming and 0.5 × CO2cooling were amplified by familiar linked positive surface albedo and lapse rate feedbacks associated with sea ice change. At low latitudes, 2 × CO2warming exceeded 0.5 × CO2cooling almost everywhere. Tropical Pacific cloud feedbacks amplified the following: 1) more fast warming than fast cooling in the west, and 2) slow pattern differences between 2 × CO2warming and 0.5 × CO2cooling in the east. Motivated to quantify cloud influence, a companion suite of experiments was run without cloud radiative feedbacks. Disabling cloud radiative feedbacks reduced the effective radiative forcing and surface temperature responses for both 2 × CO2andmore »0.5 × CO2. Notably, 20% more global warming than global cooling occurred regardless of whether cloud feedbacks were enabled or disabled. This surprising consistency resulted from the cloud influence on non-cloud feedbacks and circulation. With the exception of the tropical Pacific, disabling cloud feedbacks did little to change surface temperature response patterns including the large high-latitude responses driven by non-cloud feedbacks. The findings provide new insights into the regional processes controlling the response to greenhouse gas forcing, especially for clouds.

    Significance Statement

    We analyze the processing controlling idealized warming and cooling under abrupt CO2forcing using a modern and highly vetted fully coupled climate model. We were especially interested to compare simulations with and without cloud radiative feedbacks. Notably, 20% more global warming than global cooling occurred regardless of whether cloud feedbacks were enabled or disabled. This surprising consistency resulted from the cloud influence on forcing, non-cloud feedbacks, and circulation. With the exception of the tropical Pacific, disabling cloud feedbacks did little to change surface temperature response patterns including the large high-latitude responses driven by non-cloud feedbacks. The findings provide new insights into the regional processes controlling the response to greenhouse gas forcing, especially for clouds. When combined with estimates of cooling at the Last Glacial Maximum, the findings also help rule out large (4+ K) values of equilibrium climate sensitivity.

    « less
  5. Abstract Background

    China’s terrestrial ecosystems play a pronounced role in the global carbon cycle. Here we combine spatially-explicit information on vegetation, soil, topography, climate and land use change with a process-based biogeochemistry model to quantify the responses of terrestrial carbon cycle in China during the 20th century.

    Results

    At a century scale, China’s terrestrial ecosystems have acted as a carbon sink averaging at 96 Tg C yr− 1, with large inter-annual and decadal variabilities. The regional sink has been enhanced due to the rising temperature and CO2concentration, with a slight increase trend in carbon sink strength along with the enhanced net primary production in the century. The areas characterized by C source are simulated to extend in the west and north of the Hu Huanyong line, while the eastern and southern regions increase their area and intensity of C sink, particularly in the late 20th century. Forest ecosystems dominate the C sink in China and are responsible for about 64% of the total sink. On the century scale, the increase in carbon sinks in China’s terrestrial ecosystems is mainly contributed by rising CO2. Afforestation and reforestation promote an increase in terrestrial carbon uptake in China from 1950s. Although climate change has generally contributedmore »to the increase of carbon sinks in terrestrial ecosystems in China, the positive effect of climate change has been diminishing in the last decades of the 20th century.

    Conclusion

    This study focuses on the impacts of climate, CO2and land use change on the carbon cycle, and presents the potential trends of terrestrial ecosystem carbon balance in China at a century scale. While a slight increase in carbon sink strength benefits from the enhanced vegetation carbon uptake in China’s terrestrial ecosystems during the 20th century, the increase trend may diminish or even change to a decrease trend under future climate change.

    « less