Yukon River Basin Ecology

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Funded Title: 
Yukon River Basin Project: Ecology, Soil Carbon and Permafrost Experiments
Bonanza Creek LTER and University of Alaska Fairbanks
Feb 2013

Boreal wetlands are important for wildlife and carbon storage and are being affected by multiple environmental stressors including permafrost thaw. In particular, thermokarst bogs resulting from permafrost thaw can result in large feedbacks to global climate if methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes are large. In addition, our understanding of the environmental, chemical, and biotic interactions that control greenhouse gas fluxes from thawing permafrost environments is limited, and changes over the course of wetland development.

It is the purpose of this project to conduct biogeochemical studies within a permafrost thaw chronosequence (differing ages of thaw) at the Bonanza Creek LTER and to work with modelers of the Integrated Ecosystem Modeling (IEM) working group to improve our understanding of permafrost-carbon (C) interactions. The goal of the wetland-IEM is to develop a modeling framework that integrates vegetation succession, disturbance, biogeochemistry, hydrology, and permafrost dynamics using the Alaska Frame-Based Ecosystem Code (ALFRESCO), Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM) with dynamic vegetation and soil organic layers, and Geophysical Institute Permafrost Lab (GIPL) model. Model parameterization and verification will be conducted in concert with field biogeochemical studies. Existing infrastructure investment at the APEX site minimizes the cost required to maintain studies at this site. This research supports the goal of the AK CASC to inform global models regarding how changing northern latitude ecosystems will impact the climate system.

The goal of this project is to conduct field studies to support the parameterization, validation, and verification of Integrated Ecosystem Models related to the effect of permafrost thaw and wetland development on vegetation composition and productivity, net change in ecosystem carbon balance, CH4 fluxes from wetlands, and the controls on these processes at the Alaska Peatland Experiment (APEX).