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The Arctic Carbon Cycle is Speeding Up

03 August 2018

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When people think of the Arctic, snow, ice and polar bears come to mind. Trees? Not so much. At least not yet.

A new NASA-led study using data from the Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) shows that carbon in Alaska's North Slope tundra ecosystems spends about 13 percent less time locked in frozen soil than it did 40 years ago. In other words, the carbon cycle there is speeding up -- and is now at a pace more characteristic of a North American boreal forest than of the icy Arctic. 

"Warming temperatures mean that essentially we have one ecosystem -- the tundra -- developing some of the characteristics of a different ecosystem -- a boreal forest," said study co-author Anthony Bloom of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Source: NASA

Image credit: Isla Myers-Smith/University of Edinburgh - Changes observed in vegetation, permafrost, and coastal erosion at the Yukon's Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island Territorial Park

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