Thawing Arctic Soils Key To Long-term Climate Change • Earth.com

Thawing Arctic Soils Key To Long-term Climate Change

09-01-2016

[bc_video video_id=’4772518959001′ account_id=’4603804223001′] Thawing Arctic Soils Key To Long-term Climate Change Scientists race against climate change to determine the impact of thawing Arctic soils and potential carbon release

Since the last ice age, plants in the Alaskan Arctic have been taking carbon out of the atmosphere and locking it away in the soil. So, for thousands of years, the soil microbes in this region of the world have subsisted on a limited carbon diet because much of the organic matter is frozen into the permafrost layer, which starts about a foot underground.

But now, the permafrost is starting to thaw. That means all those microbes are about to find themselves at an all-you-can-eat carbon buffet. Frozen Arctic soils are set to release vast amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as they continue to thaw in coming decades. Earth’s permafrost is thawing, and indigenous communities in the Arctic and scientists around the world say it’s high time this alarming loss of ground ice receives the global.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), ecologist Matthew Wallenstein and a team from Colorado State University have come to the Toolik Field Station, deep inside the Arctic Circle, to drill soil cores for study. The researchers are trying to find out more about how microbes in the soil are cycling carbon from the Earth to the atmosphere.

Scientists estimate the Arctic stores more carbon in its landscape than is stored in the entire atmosphere. So, if that carbon is released, it has the potential to impact climate worldwide, as well as crop productivity and wildfires.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1255228, CAREER: Microbial Allocation of Assimilated Carbon: Interactions Between Temperature, Substrate Quality and Microbial Physiology Determine Efficiency of Arctic Soil Carbon Cycling. CAREER is NSF”s Faculty Early Career Development Program.

National Science Foundation

Miles O”Brien, Science Nation Correspondent

Kate Tobin, Science Nation Producer

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