Scientists find carbon from thawing permafrost is released into the atmosphere at higher rates than previously thought

phys.org | 5/8/2019 | Staff
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For years, scientists have pointed to warming permafrost in the Arctic tundra as a source for increased carbon in the atmosphere; as this soil warms, it releases greenhouse gases that have long been trapped in frozen ground.

New research from Northern Arizona University shows even more carbon is being released from thawed permafrost than climate scientists previously thought. César Plaza, Christina Schädel and Ted Schuur, professors in the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss), authored a paper published this month in Nature Geoscience that introduces a new way to track soil carbon in permafrost, which changes their understanding of how environmental change influences ecosystem carbon storage. The experiment builds on a long-term permafrost tundra warming study Schuur and other collaborators are doing in Alaska.

Study - Methods - Soil - Carbon - Losses

"This study was novel because we used new methods to directly track the soil carbon losses, and they were much higher than we previously thought," Schuur said. "This suggests that not only is carbon being lost through greenhouse gases directly to the atmosphere but also dissolved in waters that flow through the soil and likely carried carbon into streams, leaves and rivers."

This study quantifies soil carbon in relation to a fixed ash content, which uses the mineral component of soil as a metric for pool comparisons over time, which enabled the team to get direct measurements of changes in soil carbon. They used this approach to directly measure soil carbon pool changes in a five-year period, showing...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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