Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


PETA-CARB Report Summary

Project ID: 338335
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Germany

Mid-Term Report Summary - PETA-CARB (Rapid Permafrost Thaw in a Warming Arctic and Impacts on the Soil Organic Carbon Pool)

During the 30-month period covered in this report key staff was hired, major equipment was purchased, main field work was conducted, and multiple research papers were published. A team of 3 postdocs, 3 PhD students, and 1 engineer was assembled to cover research components in all work packages. 7 MSc students worked on lab sample processing or image data analysis. More than 10 student interns were involved in the lab and remote sensing work. The team conducted 6 major field expeditions to Alaska and Siberia to collect permafrost and lake sediment samples, instrument field sites, and carry out field measurements.
Remote sensing data processing is continued with excellent progress. We developed and processed temporally dense Landsat satellite time series for several very large permafrost regions in Siberia as well as Alaska spanning several 100,000 km2. This allows us to identify location and timing of land surface disturbances associated with permafrost changes such as thermokarst, shore and coastal erosion, thaw slumps, fires, lake change, vegetation and soil moisture dynamics, and many other processes. We are deriving process rates and quantify the abundance of these target processes. High-resolution stereo-photogrammetry from aerial and satellite imagery for large regions and multiple time periods is used to derive detailed information on decadal-scale subsidence as a consequence of permafrost thaw in North Siberia and North Alaska. We installed subsidence observation grids in two locations in North Siberia and one location in North Alaska allowing repeat measurements during upcoming field expeditions and comparison with remote sensing results.
Our field sampling efforts resulted in successful collection of a large number of permafrost cores following transects across thermokarst-affected landscapes and Arctic river deltas in Alaska and Siberia. We further cored four 20 m deep boreholes near Yakutsk into ice-rich Yedoma and thermokarst deposits to analyze the quantity, quality, and age of deep carbon in various permafrost settings. Geo-biochemical and paleo-environmental lab work on lake cores and permafrost samples is progressing well. The majority of cores from the first field campaigns have been completely processed and analyzed for various carbon-specific proxies and first sets of radiocarbon dates are being analyzed to quantify accumulation rates.
Our permafrost carbon vulnerability assessment includes the first-time inclusion of thermokarst processes in a panarctic-scale model, also taking into account the contribution of deep carbon pools to future carbon fluxes from permafrost regions. In addition, we substantially contributed to several updates of carbon pool syntheses in permafrost regions and the development of a first map on panarctic distribution of thermokarst-vulnerable landscapes.
Overall, the project did progress excellently and no major roadblocks were encountered in executing the research plan. Slight delays in schedule will need to be taken into account with regards to delayed sample export from Russia in 2015 (now scheduled for 2016) and delayed hiring of the GIS technician to establish the Arctic Permafrost Geospatial Center (APGC). A qualified technician was successfully hired in 04/2015 and the APGC data catalogue as well as the WebGIS service are now under development and expected to go online with a first suite of datasets in fall 2016.
The team’s focus increasingly shifted towards the publication of first results from samples and measurements collected and analyzed in the first project phase, highlighting the maturation of the project. A total of 21 ISI peer-reviewed journal articles resulted from research supported by this project during the reporting period. Publications include high impact papers in top-tier journals (2x Nature; 2x Nature Geoscience). One additional paper is accepted (1x Nature Communications) and three papers are in preparation for submission to top-tier journals in fall 2016.

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