Menu
Modern science
Soil Microbes Accelerate Global Warming

Bold New Approach to Wind 'Farm' Design May Provide Efficiency Gains

Soft Memory Device Opens Door to New Biocompatible Electronics

Most Elliptical Galaxies Are 'Like Spirals'

New Planets Feature Young Star and Twin Neptunes

Editing the Genome: Scientists Unveil New Tools for Rewriting the Code of Life

High Social Rank Comes at a Price, Wild Baboon Study Finds

Fossil Forensics Reveals How Wasps Populated Rotting Dinosaur Eggs

Monitoring Cellular Interactions at Nano-Scale in More Detail Than Ever Before

Non-Africans Are Part Neanderthal, Genetic Research Shows

Making Blood Sucking Deadly for Mosquitoes

Rising Oceans: Too Late to Turn the Tide?

Newly Developed Fluorescent Protein Makes Internal Organs Visible

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Returns Close-Up Image of Giant Asteroid Vesta

Bacteria Use Batman-Like Grappling Hooks to 'Slingshot' On Surfaces, Study Shows

Mysterious Fossils Provide New Clues to Insect Evolution

Twisted Tale of Our Galaxy's Ring: Strange Kink in Milky Way

Engineering Excitable Cells for Studies of Bioelectricity and Cell Therapy

Ancient Footprints Show Human-Like Walking Began Nearly 4 Million Years Ago

Memories May Skew Visual Perception

Movement of Black Holes Powers Quasars, the Universe's Brightest Lights

First Artificial Neural Network Created out of DNA: Molecular Soup Exhibits Brainlike Behavior

Dolphins' 'Remarkable' Recovery from Injury Offers Important Insights for Human Healing

Cosmological Evolution of Dark Matter Is Similar to That of Visible Matter

Exoplanet Aurora: An Out-Of-This-World Sight

Tundra Fires Could Accelerate Climate Warming
After a 10,000-year absence, wildfires have returned to the Arctic tundra, and a University of Florida study shows that their impact could extend far beyond the areas blackened by flames.

In a study published in the July 28 issue of the journal Nature, UF ecologist Michelle Mack and a team of scientists including fellow UF ecologist Ted Schuur quantified the amount of soil-bound carbon released into the atmosphere in the 2007 Anaktuvuk River fire, which covered more than 400 square miles on the North Slope of Alaska's Brooks Range. The 2.1 million metric tons of carbon released in the fire -- roughly twice the amount of greenhouse gases put out by the city of Miami in a year -- is significant enough to suggest that Arctic fires could impact the global climate, said Mack, an associate professor of ecosystem ecology in UF's department of biology.

"The 2007 fire was the canary in the coal mine," Mack said. "In this wilderness, hundreds of miles away from the nearest city or source of pollution, we're seeing the effects of a warming atmosphere. It's a wake-up call that the Arctic carbon cycle could change rapidly, and we need to know what the consequences will be."

Smoke from the fire pumped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but that's just one part of a tundra fire's potential impact. The fire also consumed up to 30 percent of the insulating layer of organic matter that protects the permafrost beneath the tundra's shrub- and moss-covered landscape.

In a pine forest, fire would burn up leaf litter on the ground, but not the soil beneath. Because the Arctic tundra has a carbon-rich, peaty soil, however, the ground itself is combustible, and when the fire recedes, some of the soil is gone. In a double whammy, the vulnerable permafrost is not only more exposed, but also covered by blackened ground, which absorbs more of the sun's heat and could accelerate thawing.

"When the permafrost warms, microbes will begin to decompose that organic matter and could release even more carbon that's been stored in the permafrost for hundreds or thousands of years into the atmosphere," Mack said. "If that huge stock of carbon is released, it could increase atmospheric carbon dioxide drastically."

The study shows how isolated fires can have a widespread impact, said University of Alaska biology professor Terry Chapin. "When you think about the massive carbon stocks and massive area of tundra throughout the world, and its increasing vulnerability to fire as climate warms, it suggests that fire may become the dominant factor that governs the future carbon balance of this biome," Chapin said. "The paper by Michelle and her colleagues raises this possibility for the first time. It presents a very different perspective on the way in which climate change may affect this biome in the future."

Using radiocarbon dating, co-author Schuur and researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Alaska Fire Service and Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, found that carbon up to 50 years old had been burned in the 2007 fire.

Mack also developed a new method that can now be used by other tundra researchers to measure soil loss. By comparing the tussocks of sedge plants, which resprout after a fire, Mack was able to quantify soil heights and densities before and after the burn.

Mack hopes her findings will open a dialogue about how tundra fires are managed. Because the Anaktuvuk River fire was in a wilderness area, it was not suppressed or contained. With better data on the long-term impact of tundra fire on global climate warming, Mack says, putting out these fires might become more of a priority.

"This fire was a big wake-up call, and it can happen again, not just in Alaska but in other parts of the Arctic, like Canada and Russia," Mack said. "Suppressing a fire in the wilderness is costly, but what if the fire causes the permafrost to melt? We need to have that discussion."

Для печати

New Material Lets Electrons 'Dance' and Form New State

Cod Resurgence in Canadian Waters

Fundamental Matter-Antimatter Symmetry Confirmed

First True View of Global Erosion

NASA's WISE Finds Earth's First 'Trojan' Asteroid

Engineers Fly World's First 'Printed' Aircraft

Scientist Converts Human Skin Cells Into Functional Brain Cells

Rainforest Plant Developed 'Sonar Dish' to Attract Pollinating Bats

Sea Level Rise Less from Greenland, More from Antarctica, Than Expected During Last Interglacial

How Bats Stay On Target Despite the Clutter

Fall of the Neanderthals: Volume of Modern Humans Infiltrating Europe Cited as Critical Factor

Largest-Ever Map of Plant Protein Interactions

Some Plants Duplicate Their DNA to Overcome Adversity

here

Menu
Diamonds Pinpoint Start of Colliding Continents

Researchers Identify Seventh and Eighth Bases of DNA

Fool's Gold Gives Scientists Priceless Insight Into Earth's Evolution

Astronomers Discover Largest and Most Distant Reservoir of Water Yet

Major Step Toward Creating Faster Electronics Using Graphene

New Photonic Crystals Have Both Electronic and Optical Properties

Epigenetic 'Memory' Key to Nature Versus Nurture

Climate Change to Increase Yellowstone Wildfires Dramatically

Retinal Cells Thoughts to Be the Same Are Not, Biologist Says

Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas

Mitochondria Share an Ancestor With SAR11, a Globally Significant Marine Microbe

Drug Shown to Improve Sight for Patients With Inherited Blindness

Elliptical Galaxies Are Not Dead

Hubble Constant: A New Way to Measure the Expansion of the Universe

Enceladus Rains Water Onto Saturn

Engineers Develop One-Way Transmission System for Sound Waves

Researchers Graft Olfactory Receptors Onto Nanotubes

New Invisibility Cloak Hides Objects from Human View

Bionic Microrobot Mimics the 'Water Strider' and Walks On Water

How Memory Is Lost: Loss of Memory Due to Aging May Be Reversible

Reservoirs of Ancient Lava Shaped Earth

Wave Power Can Drive Sun's Intense Heat

Social Deficits Associated With Autism, Schizophrenia Induced in Mice With New Technology

Tundra Fires Could Accelerate Climate Warming

Chandra X-Ray Observatory Images Gas Flowing Toward Black Hole