Permafrost dynamics, thaw, age, fate and flux of «old carbon»
We aim for a better understanding of the timescales and pathways of carbon release, especially the interplay between the physical environment, microbial communities and the stocks of carbon, nitrogen and other trace elements.
Permafrost ecosystems contain one of the largest soil carbon stocks worldwide, so far largely preserved from microbial decomposition in the frozen ground. However, permafrost is in the process of thawing in many areas, including Norway, which releases carbon to the atmosphere as greenhouse gases and could thus amplify climate change, if this development continues. Carbon stored in permafrost can be very old, often thousands or even tens of thousands of years, and the pathways for decomposition can be complex.
Field studies will make use of the wide variety of permafrost ecosystems in Norway which range from organic-rich permafrost peatlands (see image above) in Finnmark to much colder, less rich permafrost environments in the Norwegian mountains and on Svalbard.
Building on years of experience with field studies and different modelling tools, CBA aims for a much-improved representation of permafrost carbon turnover in models. This work will contribute to better projections of future greenhouse gas budgets with Earth System Models.