IGERT Students Publish Research on Climate Change & Arctic Soils

EurekAlert AAAS  |  March 16, 2016

Warmer, wetter conditions in the Arctic are accelerating the loss of carbon stored in tundra and permafrost soils, creating a potential positive feedback that further boosts global temperatures, a Dartmouth College study finds.

“Our results highlight the importance of the interactive effects of vegetation type, temperature and moisture in determining of the response of soil decomposition to climate change,” says lead author Julia Bradley-Cook, who conducted the study as part of her doctorate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Dartmouth and who is now a Congressional Science Fellow. “Any soil moisture increases consistent with climate model projections are expected to increase soil respiration in both vegetation types. Also, higher soil moisture should increase the temperature sensitivity of grassy soils but may have little to no effect on shrub soils. Shrub expansion into grassy areas could reduce soil carbon accumulation and the temperature sensitivity of carbon mineralization, such that these soils would more closely resemble the carbon storage and temperature sensitivity of shrub soil.”

The study’s co-authors are Chelsea Petrenko (formerly Vario), a recent PhD recipient in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Andrew Friedland, a professor of Environmental Studies; and Ross Virginia, a professor of Environmental Studies and director of the Institute of Arctic Studies. This study was supported by the National Science Foundation IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) Program.

The findings appear in the journal Climate Change Responses.