UAF researchers study effects of wildfires and thawing permafrost on carbon production

A new study co-authored by two UAF researchers suggests that contrary to previous studies Alaska’s wildfires and thawing permafrost may not generate more carbon that its ecosystems can capture – at least, through the end of the century.

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That’s potentially positive short-term news. But the study by David McGuire and Scott Rupp advises that Alaska could yet become a net producer of carbon if temperature increases, permafrost thaw and wildfire frequency and intensity are much greater than the study anticipates.

That in turn could lead to greater concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases and more warming, an ongoing process climate scientists call a “feedback loop.”
McGuire, with UAF’s Institute of Arctic Biology, and Rupp, director of UAF’s Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning, worked with other researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and Forest Service on the study. It’s titled Baseline and Projected Future Carbon Storage and Greenhouse-Gas Fluxes in Ecosystems of Alaska.

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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