COUP - Constraining uncertainties in the permafrost-climate feedback

SOM & Carbon cycling

Permafrost ecosystems hold more carbon than the atmosphere. There is mountain concern that rapid warming in the Arctic will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) from these ecosystems, resulting in a positive feedback to climate change. Despite such a feedback being of central importance to future climate, it is currently not acknowledged in global climate models. This is for two reasons. First, warming effects on CO2 and CH4 release are dependent on a suite of geophysical and ecological factors that vary locally across permafrost landscapes. Second, the soil food web, which is a key regulator of permafrost carbon dynamics, can respond to warming on a multitude of spatial and temporal scales. Together, these factors create a level of carbon cycle complexity that is poorly understood at the biome-scale, leading to uncertainties in the magnitude and timing of the permafrost-climate feedback.

We are working in COUP with fourteen partner countries to better constrain these uncertainties.Our overarching aims are to: (i) identify and quantify factors driving carbon release from permafrost ecosystems at the landscape-level; and (ii) incorporate these as variables into a new global climate model. Our group is particularly focussed on the responses of the soil microbial community, and the carbon cycle processes they govern, to rising temperature.

Link to external webpage: COUP

This project is funded by the JPI Climate