Biomass offsets little or none of permafrost carbon release from soils, streams, and wildfire: an expert assessment

Benjamin, W. Abbott and Jeremy, B. Jones and Edward, A. G. Schuur and F. Stuart Chapin, III and William, B. Bowden and Howard, E. Epstein and Michael, D. Flannigan and Tamara, K. Harms and Teresa, N. Hollingsworth and Michelle, C. Mack and Susan, M. Natali and Adrian, V. Rocha and Suzanne, E. Tank and Merritt, R. Turetsky and Jorien, E. Vonk and Kimberly, P. Wickland and George, R. Aiken and Heather, D. Alexander and Rainer, M. W. Amon and Brian, W. Benscoter and Yves, Bergeron and Kevin, Bishop and Olivier, Blarquez and Ben, Bond-Lamberty and Amy, L. Breen and Ishi, Buffam and Yihua, Cai and Christopher, Carcaillet and Sean, K. Carey and Jing, M. Chen and Han, Y. H. Chen and Torben, R. Christensen and Lee, W. Cooper and William, J. de Groot and Thomas, H. DeLuca and Ellen, Dorrepaal and Ned, Fetcher and Jacques, C. Finlay and Bruce, C. Forbes and Nancy, H. F. French and Sylvie, Gauthier and Martin, P. Girardin and Scott, J. Goetz and Johann, G. Goldammer and Laura, Gough and Paul, Grogan and Laodong, Guo and Philip, E. Higuera and Larry, Hinzman and Feng Sheng, Hu and Gustaf, Hugelius and Elchin, E. Jafarov and Randi, Jandt and Jill, F. Johnstone and Jan, Karlsson and Eric, S. Kasischke and Gerhard, Kattner and Ryan, Kelly and Frida, Keuper and George, W. Kling and Pirkko, Kortelainen and Jari, Kouki and Peter, Kuhry and Hjalmar, Laudon and Isabelle, Laurion and Robie, W. Macdonald and Paul, J. Mann and Pertti, J. Martikainen and James, W. McClelland and Ulf, Molau and Steven, F. Oberbauer and David, Olefeldt and David, Paré and Marc-André, Parisien and Serge, Payette and Changhui, Peng and Oleg, S. Pokrovsky and Edward, B. Rastetter and Peter, A. Raymond and Martha, K. Raynolds and Guillermo, Rein and James, F. Reynolds and Martin, Robards and Brendan, M. Rogers and Christina, Schädel and Kevin, Schaefer and Inger, K. Schmidt and Anatoly, Shvidenko and Jasper, Sky and Robert, G. M. Spencer and Gregory, Starr and Robert, G. Striegl and Roman, Teisserenc and Lars, J. Tranvik and Tarmo, Virtanen and Jeffrey, M. Welker and Sergei, Zimov (2016) Biomass offsets little or none of permafrost carbon release from soils, streams, and wildfire: an expert assessment. Environmental Research Letters, 11 (3). ISSN 1748-9326

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As the permafrost region warms, its large organic carbon pool will be increasingly vulnerable to decomposition, combustion, and hydrologic export. Models predict that some portion of this release will be offset by increased production of Arctic and boreal biomass; however, the lack of robust estimates of net carbon balance increases the risk of further overshooting international emissions targets. Precise empirical or model-based assessments of the critical factors driving carbon balance are unlikely in the near future, so to address this gap, we present estimates from 98 permafrost-region experts of the response of biomass, wildfire, and hydrologic carbon flux to climate change. Results suggest that contrary to model projections, total permafrost-region biomass could decrease due to water stress and disturbance, factors that are not adequately incorporated in current models. Assessments indicate that end-of-the-century organic carbon release from Arctic rivers and collapsing coastlines could increase by 75% while carbon loss via burning could increase four-fold. Experts identified water balance, shifts in vegetation community, and permafrost degradation as the key sources of uncertainty in predicting future system response. In combination with previous findings, results suggest the permafrost region will become a carbon source to the atmosphere by 2100 regardless of warming scenario but that 65%–85% of permafrost carbon release can still be avoided if human emissions are actively reduced.

Item Type: Article
Language: English
Depositing User: Christer Enkvist
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2017 14:29
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2017 14:29

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