Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE)

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ABoVE: Vulnerability of inland waters and the aquatic carbon cycle to changing permafrost and climate across boreal northwestern North America.

Carbon released from thawing permafrost may fuel terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems or contribute to greenhouse gas emission, leading to a potential warming feedback and further thaw.

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Carbon released from thawing permafrost may fuel terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems or contribute to greenhouse gas emission, leading to a potential warming feedback and further thaw. While we can see the landscape effects of thaw in boreal Alaska, finding and tracking ancient carbon released from thawing permafrost is difficult, due to the rapidity at which it is assimilated into ecosystems or released to the atmosphere. This project aims to rigorously quantify the flux and biogeochemical transformation of ancient carbon from representative landscapes of boreal Alaska using three approaches: 1) detailed characterization of carbon concentration, quality, reactivity, and age in soils, streams, and lakes, 2) geophysical characterization of thawing landscapes and increasing subsurface hydrologic connectivity, and 3) quantification of groundwater – surface water interactions, which control the transport of thawed material from soils to surface waters. Together, these approaches will improve our understanding of how boreal ecosystems thaw. In turn, we will gain information necessary to predict future changes and their implications for water, solute transport, and ecosystems. This project is a collaboration between the USGS and NASA's Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) project.