Lowland Permafrost (LowPerm)
The LowPerm project used an integrated programme of field work, laboratory experimentation, numerical modelling and workshops to tackle these areas. The project used Russian and Norwegian field logistics from West Spitsbergen to Siberia, and laboratories in the UK and Denmark.
Major polar science practitioners from outside the consortium with expertise in regional modelling, isotope geochemistry, marine ecosystem change, and biogeochemical cycling, enhanced the international profile and impact of the project through knowledge exchange activities.
LowPerm aimed to:
- Quantify microbial processes, changes in microbial populations and their functional potential.
- Understand the phys py-2ical process dynamics of permafrost soils at field observatories in West Spitsbergen.
- Quantify seasonal m py-2icrobial-driven greenhouse gas production and fjord fertilisation, due to runoff of nutrients and organic matter.
- Determine responses py-2 of microbial communities to different temperatures, water, oxygen, and nutrient substrate conditions.
- Develop semi-empirical tuning parameters for integrating these biogeochemical processes into biophysical models, taking the small-scale into account.
The importance of the oceans for heat transfer into the Arctic means that the low altitude and very extensive permafrost lowlands can respond quickly and significantly to climate change. In the Eurasian Arctic this causes the early onset of thaw, increased active layer thickness and enhanced microbial activity. The vast soil carbon stocks of Arctic permafrost are vulnerable to these changes, but accurate forecasting of its influence on the global climate system relied on addressing a number of knowledge gaps.
The following such gaps were addressed by LowPerm:
- Understanding of the microbially mediated processes in the permafrost interface and how they control the production of new biogases and nutrients in response to increased global temperatures. Prior to this project, there was poor understanding of the hydrological, geomorphological and ecological drivers of these biogeochemical processes. Results of this research were to be incorporated into more accurate regional models.
- Investigating the fertilisation potential of runoff from permafrost lowlands. Runoff from lowlands in the Eurasian Arctic is an important source of iron, nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter to marine ecosystems. Such chemicals entering the sea will change biologically produced CO2 levels which in turn will alter these ecosystems.
Professor Andy Hodson (PI), Sheffield / Professor Hanne Christiansen, UNIS / Professor Kai Finster, Aarhus / Professor Steve Thornton, Sheffield / Dr. Gunnar Mallon, Sheffield / Dr. Jacob Yde, HISF / Dr Ebbe Norskov Bak, Aarhus / Eleanor Jones, Sheffield