Arctic ecosystem responses to changes in water availability and warming: Short and long-term responses

Paulo C Olivas, Florida International University


Arctic soils store close to 14% of the global soil carbon. Most of arctic carbon is stored below ground in the permafrost. With climate warming the decomposition of the soil carbon could represent a significant positive feedback to global greenhouse warming. Recent evidence has shown that the temperature of the Arctic is already increasing, and this change is associated mostly with anthropogenic activities. Warmer soils will contribute to permafrost degradation and accelerate organic matter decay and thus increase the flux of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Temperature and water availability are also important drivers of ecosystem performance, but effects can be complex and in opposition. Temperature and moisture changes can affect ecosystem respiration (ER) and gross primary productivity (GPP) independently; an increase in the net ecosystem exchange can be a result of either a decrease in ER or an increase in GPP. Therefore, understanding the effects of changes in ecosystem water and temperature on the carbon flux components becomes key to predicting the responses of the Arctic to climate change. The overall goal of this work was to determine the response of arctic systems to simulated climate change scenarios with simultaneous changes in temperature and moisture. A temperature and hydrological manipulation in a naturally-drained lakebed was used to assess the short-term effect of changes in water and temperature on the carbon cycle. Also, as part of International Tundra Experiment Network (ITEX), I determined the long-term effect of warming on the carbon cycle in a natural hydrological gradient established in the mid 90's. I found that the carbon balance is highly sensitive to short-term changes in water table and warming. However, over longer time periods, hydrological and temperature changed soil biophysical properties, nutrient cycles, and other ecosystem structural and functional components that down regulated GPP and ER, especially in wet areas.^

Subject Area

Biology, Botany|Climate Change

Recommended Citation

Olivas, Paulo C, "Arctic ecosystem responses to changes in water availability and warming: Short and long-term responses" (2010). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3447802.