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  1. Abstract

    Climate warming threatens to destabilize vast northern permafrost areas, potentially releasing large quantities of organic carbon that could further disrupt the climate. Here we synthesize paleorecords of past permafrost-carbon dynamics to contextualize future permafrost stability and carbon feedbacks. We identify key landscape differences between the last deglaciation and today that influence the response of permafrost to atmospheric warming, as well as landscape-level differences that limit subsequent carbon uptake. We show that the current magnitude of thaw has not yet exceeded that of previous deglaciations, but that permafrost carbon release has the potential to exert a strong feedback on future Arctic climate as temperatures exceed those of the Pleistocene. Better constraints on the extent of subsea permafrost and its carbon pool, and on carbon dynamics from a range of permafrost thaw processes, including blowout craters and megaslumps, are needed to help quantify the future permafrost-carbon-climate feedbacks.

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  2. Soil carbon (C) in permafrost peatlands is vulnerable to decomposition with thaw under a warming climate. The amount and form of C loss likely depends on the site hydrology following permafrost thaw, but antecedent conditions during peat accumulation are also likely important. We test the role of differing hydrologic conditions on rates of peat accumulation, permafrost formation, and response to warming at an Arctic tundra fen using a process-based model of peatland dynamics in wet and dry landscape settings that persist from peat initiation in the mid-Holocene through future simulations to 2100 CE and 2300 CE. Climate conditions for both the wet and dry landscape settings are driven by the same downscaled TraCE-21ka transient paleoclimate simulations and CCSM4 RCP8.5 climate drivers. The landscape setting controlled the rates of peat accumulation, permafrost formation and the response to climatic warming and permafrost thaw. The dry landscape scenario had high rates of initial peat accumulation (11.7 ± 3.4 mm decade −1 ) and rapid permafrost aggradation but similar total C stocks as the wet landscape scenario. The wet landscape scenario was more resilient to 21st century warming temperatures than the dry landscape scenario and showed 60% smaller C losses and 70% more new net peat C additions by 2100 CE. Differences in the modeled responses indicate the largest effect is related to the landscape setting and basin hydrology due to permafrost controls on decomposition, suggesting an important sensitivity to changing runoff patterns. These subtle hydrological effects will be difficult to capture at circumpolar scales but are important for the carbon balance of permafrost peatlands under future climate warming. 
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  3. Abstract

    Permafrost degradation in peatlands is altering vegetation and soil properties and impacting net carbon storage. We studied four adjacent sites in Alaska with varied permafrost regimes, including a black spruce forest on a peat plateau with permafrost, two collapse scar bogs of different ages formed following thermokarst, and a rich fen without permafrost. Measurements included year‐round eddy covariance estimates of net carbon dioxide (CO2), mid‐April to October methane (CH4) emissions, and environmental variables. From 2011 to 2022, annual rainfall was above the historical average, snow water equivalent increased, and snow‐season duration shortened due to later snow return. Seasonally thawed active layer depths also increased. During this period, all ecosystems acted as slight annual sources of CO2(13–59 g C m−2 year−1) and stronger sources of CH4(11–14 g CH4 m−2from ~April to October). The interannual variability of net ecosystem exchange was high, approximately ±100 g C m−2 year−1, or twice what has been previously reported across other boreal sites. Net CO2release was positively related to increased summer rainfall and winter snow water equivalent and later snow return. Controls over CH4emissions were related to increased soil moisture and inundation status. The dominant emitter of carbon was the rich fen, which, in addition to being a source of CO2, was also the largest CH4emitter. These results suggest that the future carbon‐source strength of boreal lowlands in Interior Alaska may be determined by the area occupied by minerotrophic fens, which are expected to become more abundant as permafrost thaw increases hydrologic connectivity. Since our measurements occur within close proximity of each other (≤1 km2), this study also has implications for the spatial scale and data used in benchmarking carbon cycle models and emphasizes the necessity of long‐term measurements to identify carbon cycle process changes in a warming climate.

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  5. Abstract

    Wetlands cover a small portion of the world, but have disproportionate influence on global carbon (C) sequestration, carbon dioxide and methane emissions, and aquatic C fluxes. However, the underlying biogeochemical processes that affect wetland C pools and fluxes are complex and dynamic, making measurements of wetland C challenging. Over decades of research, many observational, experimental, and analytical approaches have been developed to understand and quantify pools and fluxes of wetland C. Sampling approaches range in their representation of wetland C from short to long timeframes and local to landscape spatial scales. This review summarizes common and cutting-edge methodological approaches for quantifying wetland C pools and fluxes. We firstdefineeach of the major C pools and fluxes and providerationalefor their importance to wetland C dynamics. For each approach, we clarifywhatcomponent of wetland C is measured and its spatial and temporal representativeness and constraints. We describe practical considerations for each approach, such aswhereandwhenan approach is typically used,whocan conduct the measurements (expertise, training requirements), andhowapproaches are conducted, including considerations on equipment complexity and costs. Finally, we reviewkey covariatesandancillary measurementsthat enhance the interpretation of findings and facilitate model development. The protocols that we describe to measure soil, water, vegetation, and gases are also relevant for related disciplines such as ecology. Improved quality and consistency of data collection and reporting across studies will help reduce global uncertainties and develop management strategies to use wetlands as nature-based climate solutions.

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  8. Abstract

    Climate warming in high‐latitude regions is thawing carbon‐rich permafrost soils, which can release carbon to the atmosphere and enhance climate warming. Using a coupled model of long‐term peatland dynamics (Holocene Peat Model, HPM‐Arctic), we quantify the potential loss of carbon with future climate warming for six sites with differing climates and permafrost histories in Northwestern Canada. We compared the net carbon balance at 2100 CE resulting from new productivity and the decomposition of active layer and newly thawed permafrost peats under RCP8.5 as a high‐end constraint. Modeled net carbon losses ranged from −3.0 kg C m−2(net loss) to +0.1 kg C m−2(net gain) between 2015 and 2100. Losses of newly thawed permafrost peat comprised 0.2%–25% (median: 1.6%) of “old” C loss, which were related to the residence time of peat in the active layer before being incorporated into the permafrost, peat temperature, and presence of permafrost. The largest C loss was from the permafrost‐free site, not from permafrost sites. C losses were greatest from depths of 0.2–1.0 m. New C added to the profile through net primary productivity between 2015 and 2100 offset ∼40% to >100% of old C losses across the sites. Differences between modeled active layer deepening and flooding following permafrost thaw resulted in very small differences in net C loss by 2100, illustrating the important role of present‐day conditions and permafrost aggradation history in controlling net C loss.

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