Quantifying carbon fluxes and budgets of boreal forest-tundra landscapes under the influence of rapidly changing permafrost regimes
Principal Investigator: Sonnentag, Oliver (19)
Licence Number: 15807
Organization: Université de Montréal
Licenced Year(s): 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
Issued: Dec 18, 2015

Objective(s): To determine the net effect of permafrost thawing-induced biophysical and biogeochemical feedbacks to the climate system.

Project Description: The objectives of this research project are to: 1) determine if the net effect of permafrost thawing-induced biophysical and biogeochemical feedbacks to the climate system; 2) determine how these two types of feedback differ between the discontinuous and continuous permafrost zones; 3) determine if the reported decrease (increase) in net CO2 (CH4) exchange based on plot- (<1m2) and ecosystem-scale (~1km2) flux measurements made over mostly tundra sites in the continuous permafrost zone generalizable to boreal forest and peatland ecosystems with discontinuous and continuous permafrost; and, 4) determine if the net ecosystem CO2 and CH4 exchanges of boreal forest and peatland ecosystems in different permafrost zones respond differently to higher/lower precipitation inputs than, for example, thawing/growing season lengths.

The core component of this project are two existing micrometeorological, one at Havikpak Creek and one at Trail Valley Creek. At each tower the research team will be installing eddy covariance systems comprising a three-dimensional sonic anemometer to measure wind velocities, an open-path gas analyzer for CO2 and water vapour concentrations and an open-path gas analyzer for methane concentrations. The covariance of the vertical wind velocities and the different concentrations will allow for the calculation of the respective fluxes between the landscape and the atmosphere. These continuous measurements are complemented by repeated surveys of surface and frost table topography, vegetation, micrometeorological and environmental conditions to understand the influence of spatial and temporal permafrost dynamics on vegetation composition and structure, by remote sensing-based footprint analysis to characterize landscape heterogeneity/homogeneity, and by continuous near-surface remote sensing to interpret eddy covariance measurements in a phenological framework.

The vulnerability of permafrost landscapes to climate change has been acknowledged but the understanding of its consequences for boreal forest and tundra ecosystem structure, functioning and services is still insufficient.

Research results of this project will be presented informally in public meetings to local communities but also to local federal and territorial government agencies.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from April 15, 2016 to August 31, 2016.