Increased vegetation in the Arctic region may counteract global warming
A large amount of the Earth’s carbon and nitrogen is stored in arctic ecosystems where the ground is permanently frozen, known as permafrost. Climate change causes such soil to heat up. Johannes Rousk at Lund University, together with colleagues Kathrin Rousk och Anders Michelsen from the University of Copenhagen and the Center for Permafrost (CENPERM) have conducted field studies outside Abisko in the very north of Sweden, studying what happens to the decomposition of organic material as the climate gets warmer.
Watch short interview with Johannes Rousk!
When the nutrient-rich material is decomposed, the nutrient-poor part of the organic material is enriched, probably causing the amount of carbon to increase. Current climate models do not consider the connection between increased shrub vegetation as a result of ongoing climate change, and soil becoming less nutritious.
“It will be exciting to see how this will affect the soil carbon turnover in the long term. Perhaps our results will help complement future climate models”, says Johannes Rousk.
Today no one knows what less nutritious soil in the Arctic ecosystem and an overall decreased decomposition of organic material will lead to. However, Johannes Rousk dares to venture a guess:
“I suspect it will have an inhibiting effect on global warming”, he says.
*Images in the video by Johannes and Kathrin Rousk
Press release first published on lunduniversity.lu.se on May 17, 2016.
Rousk, K et al (2016). Microbial control of soil organic matter mineralization responses to labile carbon in subarctic climate change treatments. Published in the scientific journal Global Change Biology.