This summer’s researchers have two focal points – the first is to re-establish and maintain a carbon flux measurement station. This station measures the movement of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) between the waterlogged soils of this tundra landscape and the atmosphere.
The continued measurements of these gases are critical for understanding how the tundra and permafrost respond to climatic changes. A University of Hamburg master’s student, Wiebke Münchberger, will add measurements of these fluxes at the leaf-level to expand understanding of how the plants behave, thus enabling better predictions of the carbon cycle. The team’s second research point is an investigation of the island’s hydrology and how the movement of water over the surface may carry away top soil organic matter and nutrients.
This work builds on last year’s expedition, where master’s student Manuel Helbig measured dramatic changes in water flow that depended on the timing of the permafrost’s annual thawing cycle. Manuel is returning this summer with CliSAP post-doctoral scientist Benjamin Runkle to add carbon and nutrient measurements to the study of the surface water hydrology.
The researchers travel in month-long shifts starting on July 3. The voyage includes a 6 hour flight from Moscow to the Russian Arctic town of Tiksi on the Laptev Sea, followed by a short helicopter ride to the research station. The research station is set in the Lena Delta Reserve, a vast natural area inhabited by few people, many caribou, and ample numbers of mosquitoes. Researchers based at the station have studied many aspects of the region’s fluvial system, the special characteristics of its cold permafrost soils, and the interactions of vegetation, microbes, and hydrology. Even in the last 15 years, researchers have found the permafrost to be warming, most especially in winter as a result of higher air temperatures and reductions in the duration of snow cover.
Read more at „Tundra-Stories“-Blog (in German)