Nav: Home

High release of strong greenhouse gas nitrous oxide found from northern peatlands at permafrost thaw

May 31, 2017

A recent study led by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland reveals that permafrost thaw may greatly increase emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) from northern permafrost peatlands. Nitrous oxide is a strong greenhouse gas: 300 times more powerful per unit mass in warming the climate than CO2. It is known that thawing of permafrost may enhance climate warming by releasing the vast carbon stocks locked in Arctic soils as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). The role of N2O for permafrost-climate feedbacks, however, is not yet well understood.

The study was published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) - one of the top-level journals in natural sciences.

The authors used 16 mesocosms - 80 cm long, intact peat columns with natural vegetation - collected in a subarctic peatland in Finnish Lapland, to directly measure N2O emissions from thawing permafrost during a 33-week experiment. For this experiment, the mesocosms were set up in a climate-controlled chamber, mimicking natural temperature, moisture and light conditions. Sequential top-down thawing of the mesocosms - first of the seasonally thawing active layer and then the permafrost part - allowed the authors to directly assess N2O dynamics under near-field conditions.

The highest post-thaw emissions occurred from bare peat surfaces, which are commonly found in permafrost peatlands. For these surfaces, permafrost thaw resulted in a five-fold increase in emissions. The emission rates measured from these surfaces matched rates from tropical forest soils, the world's largest natural terrestrial N2O source. The presence of vegetation cover in the mesocosms lowered thaw-induced N2O emissions by approximately 90%. Water-logged conditions completely suppressed the N2O emissions. A vulnerability assessment indicated that areas with high probability for N2O emissions cover approximately one fourth of the Arctic. According to the authors, the Arctic N2O budget will depend strongly on future moisture and vegetation changes. However, the authors state that the Arctic will likely become a substantial source of N2O when permafrost thaws.
-end-
The study was carried out by researchers of the Department of Environmental and Biological Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland, in cooperation with colleagues from Lund University, Sweden.

The research was funded by the Nordic Center of Excellence DEFROST, and supported by the European Union project PAGE21, the Academy of Finland (project CryoN), and JPI Climate project COUP.

For further information please contact:

M.Sc. Carolina Voigt (lead author), tel.: +358 505628735, carolina.voigt@uef.fi

Dr. Christina Biasi (research director), tel: +358 403553810, christina.biasi@uef.fi

Dr. Maija Marushchak (postdoctoral researcher), tel: +358 503065244, maija.marushchak@uef.fi

Research article:

Carolina Voigt, Maija E. Marushchak, Richard E. Lamprecht, Marcin Jackowicz-Korczy?ski, Amelie Lindgren, Mikhail Mastepanov, Lars Granlund, Torben R. Christensen, Teemu Tahvanainen, Pertti J. Martikainen, Christina Biasi (2017): Increased nitrous oxide emissions from Arctic peatlands after permafrost thaw. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/05/23/1702902114.full.pdf

doi:10.1073/pnas.1702902114

University of Eastern Finland

Related Permafrost Articles:

Monitoring changes in wetland extent can help predict the rate of climate change
Monitoring changes to the amount of wetlands in regions where permafrost is thawing should be at the forefront of efforts to predict future rates of climate change, new research shows.
Domes of frozen methane may be warning signs for new blow-outs
Several methane domes, some 500m wide, have been mapped on the Arctic Ocean floor.
High release of strong greenhouse gas nitrous oxide found from northern peatlands at permafrost thaw
A recent study led by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland reveals that permafrost thaw may greatly increase emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) from northern permafrost peatlands.
Huge permafrost thaw can be limited by ambitious climate targets
New study suggests that nearly 4 million square kilometres of frozen soil -- an area larger than India -- could be lost for every additional degree of global warming experienced.
Climate-driven permafrost thaw
In bitter cold regions like northwestern Canada, permafrost has preserved relict ground-ice and vast glacial sedimentary stores in a quasi-stable state.
Berkeley Lab researchers at AGU: Impacts of climate change, subsurface energy, understanding drought and monitoring permafrost among many talks
Berkeley Lab scientists will present on a number of topics including climate modeling challenges, projects on Arctic permafrost, induced seismicity, cloud physics, Amazon forests, hydraulic fracturing, melting ice sheets, cool roofs, and more.
When permafrost melts, what happens to all that stored carbon?
Arctic permafrost contains large stores of organic carbon that have been locked in for thousands of years.
Permafrost loss changes Yukon River chemistry with global implications
New USGS-led research shows that permafrost loss due to a rapidly warming Alaska is leading to significant changes in the freshwater chemistry and hydrology of Alaska's Yukon River Basin with potential global climate implications.
New permafrost map shows regions vulnerable to thaw, carbon release
A new mapping project has identified regions worldwide that are most susceptible to dramatic permafrost thaw formations, known as thermokarst, and the resulting release of greenhouse gases.
Study measures methane release from Arctic permafrost
A University of Alaska Fairbanks-led research project has provided the first modern evidence of a landscape-level permafrost carbon feedback, in which thawing permafrost releases ancient carbon as climate-warming greenhouse gases.

Related Permafrost Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...