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University of Colorado Boulder research shows higher alpine tundra emissions



  Seven-year carbon dioxide migration sampling at Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research site in far western Boulder County

Seven years of carbon-to-air transfer sampling Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research Site in the far west Boulder County has shown that the thawing of mountain permafrost emits more of the greenhouse gas than it stores. (1

9459009) Camera File Photo ]

John Knowles paused Friday from his fieldwork in the Sonoran Desert to talk about some disruptive findings about what is happening in the mountains west of Boulder – and probably in other similar environments.

Knowles is a leading author on a recent study showing that thawing of permafrost found in high altitude mountain ecosystems can be an underwater contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions.

Now a postdoctoral researcher in ecosystem science at the University of Arizona, Knowles & # 39; research on carbon dioxide emissions in alpine environments spanning more than 10 years, was completed when he was a PhD student at the University of Colorado & # 39; s Department of Geography and a researcher at the Department of Arctic and Alpine Research.

He left Boulder for Arizona in September 2017.

"I would say the main pickup from our results is that this is the first wo to suggest a mountain analogue to the well-established Arctic tundra permafrost feedback to climate change , "Knowles knew.

What Knowles refers to is research in recent decades that has shown that melting permafrost in the Arctic regions is now declining long-frozen tundra soil and releasing CO2 reserves that had been captured and buried for centuries.

Knowles and his colleagues gathered data at the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research Site in Boulder County's Indian Peaks Wilderness over seven years, 2008 to 2014, collected samples of soil CO2, and then used radioactive material for to estimate how long carbon forms CO2 had been in the landscape.

The results showed to the researchers' surprise that foamed tundra landscapes over 11,000 feet released more CO2 than they caught each year, and that some of the CO2 released in the winter was relatively old, the first such discovery of its kind in temperate latitudes.

"During the three-month growing season when the plants were active, there was some CO2 that was removed from the atmosphere of plants and brought into tundra," Knowles knew. 19659004] "But throughout the rest of the year, the other nine months, the tundra lost that CO2 through the microbes is breathing back, about six times more in the atmosphere. When you add it all, you're on this ecosystem was persistent emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. "

It is not good news, he said, although mountains are generally seen as carbon sinks, places where carbon is efficiently collected and stored for a long time, their tundra regions – and especially their permafrosted areas – can counteract the dynamic.

"This is a mechanism, a previously unclear mechanism by which we could get more CO2 into the atmosphere. And we all know what that means," Knowles knew.

He acknowledged that while the Arctic regions have large, deep and continuous reserves of permafrost, "mountain tundra has much less. It is rude, it is only on the peaks, and so on. So in the global sense, our results do not move the needle. probably awful much compared to the Arctic. "

However, he said in the western United States:" We show in our paper we probably have to temper the value we allocate to "mountains as a carbon sink."

Others Co-authors of the study include Peter Blanken from CU Boulder's Geography Department, Mark Williams of CU and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, as well as Corey Lawrence of the US Geological Survey.

Funding for research was provided by the National Science Foundation. It was released Thursday in the journal Nature Communications

Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, brennanc @ dailycamera.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan [19659019] window.fbAsyncInit = function () {
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