Objectives

Our research contributes to Arctic Observatory Network (AON) goals by observing and documenting arctic environmental change through development of long-term multivariate data sets at two observatory sites in Alaska and Siberia.  We are also working to integrate our findings across the network of other long-term arctic research projects, including the Arctic LTER, by building databases and cross-disciplinary collaborations.

Our primary objective is to increase understanding of carbon, water, and energy fluxes, and their interactions, in arctic landscapes.

 

Specifically, we will:

  • Continue and improve existing year-round measurements of carbon, water, energy balance at our existing sites in Alaska and Russia using micrometeorological towers and the eddy-covariance technique.

  • Continue to produce high-quality, multivariable timeseries data from all of these sites using advanced data assimilation and gap-filling methods.  Datasets such as these are essential for development of long-term, large-area models and their predictions, and for understanding the correlations in time among carbon, water, and energy fluxes from changing Arctic landscapes.

  • Performing additional descriptive studies and process measurements within the tower footprints that will further application of carbon, water, energy balance data (e.g., species composition, C and N stocks, soil respiration, spatial variation in CO2 and CH4 fluxes).

The larger goal is to transform these understandings into predictions of change at the scale of watersheds, landscapes, regions and ultimately the entire Arctic System.

 

 

Background

The Arctic System is changing, and more rapidly than other ecosystems.  A large body of scientific evidence, as well as generations of observations from the people who live here, indicates warming air and soil temperatures, reduced snow coverage and duration, shrinking sea ice, thawing permafrost, and changing patterns of vegetation and animal presence.  Please visit NOAA's Arctic Report Card website for a synopsis of the current science on arctic change.

The arctic is a strong regulator of global climate, through mechanisms including greenhouse gas cycling (CO2 and CH4) and energy attenuation through vegetation and snow cover. The vast carbon stores found in arctic and boreal soils, a product of permafrost and slow cycling rates, may be easily perturbed by climate-regulated factors such as permafrost stability and snow cover changes.  There is large potential for climate change to alter the exchange rates of carbon in magnitudes sufficient to alter global budgets, and in fact present climate models predict some of the largest future changes will be in the arctic region.

Long-term monitoring of ecosystems is key to understanding changes.  Much of our understanding of arctic ecosystem function has resulted from multi-year studies, giving us the ability to interpret seasonal and annual observations in a bigger context.  The sites of our research, near Toolik Field Station in Alaska and the Northeast Science Station in Russia, have extensive background data, and a long history of ecology and climate science.