The effect of permafrost slumping on carbon delivery from land to water
Principal Investigator: Tank, Suzanne E (9)
Licence Number: 16327
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Issued: Jun 06, 2018
Project Team: Suzanne Tank (Principal Investigator, University of Alberta), Erin MacDonald (MSc student, University of Alberta), Gabriela Lech (Undergraduate field assistant, University of Alberta)

Objective(s): To understand how permafrost slumping increases the mobilization of carbon from land to water, and the effects of this transport on stream communities and the global carbon cycle.

Project Description: The objective of this study is to understand how permafrost slumping increases the mobilization of carbon from land to water, and the effects of this transport on stream communities and the global carbon cycle. This summer, the research team will measure streamwater chemistry upstream and downstream of slump sites. The team will also examine the fate of this carbon by undertaking incubation experiments that measure bacterial uptake and degradation of carbon travelling from slump sites to downstream locations. Finally, the team will take samples that will allow the team to characterize the types of bacteria that are present upstream and downstream of slumps.

While many of the slump sites that are targeted will be accessible by road (drive to roadside, hike to slump), the team will also access a few sites by helicopter, to increase the sample coverage. As described elsewhere in this application, all work on the Peel Plateau is conducted with the assistance of wildlife monitors, arranged via the Fort McPherson Renewable Resource Council (RRC).

Water samples will be collected from upstream and downstream of slump sites, and from a site 'within' the slump, where water is flowing from the slump towards the stream. Occasionally the team will also undertake 'transect' type measurements to examine how the effects of slumping diminish downstream. Transect sampling will be conducted by taking stream water samples at a variety of distances downstream of the slump inflow. Water samples will typically be filtered in Fort McPherson, using a simple vacuum pump. Further analyses, including incubation experiments, will be conducted at the Aurora Research Institute. For the streamwater sampling, the team will not be collecting any biological specimens other than the bacteria that occur naturally in filtered water samples.

The research team will also collect soil samples from the headwalls of slumps. These soil samples will be collected with either a mallet and chisel or small, hand-held coring device. The team will collect three samples per slump visited, and the volume of sample collected will be less than 2 litres each.

The research team will involve local community members from Fort McPherson in the sampling efforts, and arrange this involvement through Fort McPherson RRC. The work may also involve summer students from the Aurora Research Institute.

As in past years, the research team are happy to give presentations to local community organizations that are interested in the work. Last year, Suzanne Tank (project principal investigator) gave a presentation to the Fort McPherson RRC, while graduate students involved in this project gave presentations as part of the Aurora Research Institute speaker series. The team also find that having community members involved in the research on a day-to-day basis as wildlife monitors is very helpful for allowing the team to incorporate community feedback into the efforts, and for facilitating the passing on of information about the research the team are conducting to other members of the community. The research team are always more than happy to hear suggestions about how to improve the communication efforts!

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from June 15, 2018 to August 31, 2018.