Biomass offsets little or none of permafrost carbon release from soils, streams, and wildfire : an expert assessment

Thumbnail Image
Abbott, Benjamin W.
Jones, Jeremy B.
Schuur, Edward A. G.
Chapin, F. Stuart
Bowden, William B.
Bret-Harte, M. Syndonia
Epstein, Howard E.
Flannigan, Michael
Harms, Tamara K.
Hollingsworth, Teresa N.
Mack, Michelle C.
McGuire, A. David
Natali, Susan M.
Rocha, Adrian V.
Tank, Suzanne E.
Turetsky, Merritt R.
Vonk, Jorien E.
Wickland, Kimberly
Aiken, George R.
Alexander, Heather D.
Amon, Rainer M. W.
Benscoter, Brian
Bergeron, Yves
Bishop, Kevin
Blarquez, Olivier
Bond-Lamberty, Benjamin
Breen, Amy L.
Buffam, Ishi
Cai, Yihua
Carcaillet, Christopher
Carey, Sean K.
Chen, Jing M.
Chen, Han Y. H.
Christensen, Torben R.
Cooper, Lee W.
Cornelissen, Johannes H. C.
de Groot, William J.
DeLuca, Thomas Henry
Dorrepaal, Ellen
Fetcher, Ned
Finlay, Jacques C.
Forbes, Bruce C.
French, Nancy H. F.
Gauthier, Sylvie
Girardin, Martin
Goetz, Scott J.
Goldammer, Johann G.
Gough, Laura
Grogan, Paul
Guo, Laodong
Higuera, Philip E.
Hinzman, Larry
Hu, Feng Sheng
Hugelius, Gustaf
Jandt, Randi
Johnstone, Jill F.
Karlsson, Jan
Kasischke, Eric S.
Kattner, Gerhard
Kelly, Ryan
Keuper, Frida
Kling, George W.
Kortelainen, Pirkko
Kouki, Jari
Kuhry, Peter
Laudon, Hjalmar
Laurion, Isabelle
Macdonald, Robie W.
Mann, Paul J.
Martikainen, Pertti
McClelland, James W.
Molau, Ulf
Oberbauer, Steven F.
Olefeldt, David
Paré, David
Parisien, Marc-André
Payette, Serge
Peng, Changhui
Pokrovsky, Oleg
Rastetter, Edward B.
Raymond, Peter A.
Raynolds, Martha K.
Rein, Guillermo
Reynolds, James F.
Robards, Martin
Rogers, Brendan
Schädel, Christina
Schaefer, Kevin
Schmidt, Inger K.
Shvidenko, Anatoly
Sky, Jasper
Spencer, Robert G. M.
Starr, Gregory
Striegl, Robert
Teisserenc, Roman
Tranvik, Lars J.
Virtanen, Tarmo
Welker, Jeffrey M.
Zimov, Sergey A.
Alternative Title
Date Created
Related Materials
Replaced By
As the permafrost region warms, its large organic carbon pool will be increasingly vulnerable to decomposition, combustion, and hydrologic export. Models predict that some portion of this release will be offset by increased production of Arctic and boreal biomass; however, the lack of robust estimates of net carbon balance increases the risk of further overshooting international emissions targets. Precise empirical or model-based assessments of the critical factors driving carbon balance are unlikely in the near future, so to address this gap, we present estimates from 98 permafrost-region experts of the response of biomass, wildfire, and hydrologic carbon flux to climate change. Results suggest that contrary to model projections, total permafrost-region biomass could decrease due to water stress and disturbance, factors that are not adequately incorporated in current models. Assessments indicate that end-of-the-century organic carbon release from Arctic rivers and collapsing coastlines could increase by 75% while carbon loss via burning could increase four-fold. Experts identified water balance, shifts in vegetation community, and permafrost degradation as the key sources of uncertainty in predicting future system response. In combination with previous findings, results suggest the permafrost region will become a carbon source to the atmosphere by 2100 regardless of warming scenario but that 65%–85% of permafrost carbon release can still be avoided if human emissions are actively reduced.
© The Author(s), 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Environmental Research Letters 11 (2016): 034014, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/3/034014.
Embargo Date
Environmental Research Letters 11 (2016): 034014
Cruise ID
Cruise DOI
Vessel Name
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution 3.0 Unported