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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Arctic research award to help understand carbon cycle changes

Published: 4 July 2012

New NERC funded research will bring a state-of-the-art approach to understanding the interactions between vegetation changes in arctic catchments and biogeochemical cycling in lakes over long time scales (decades, centuries), with particular attention on changes in carbon (C) cycling.

Both Professor Mary Edwards and Dr Pete Langdon from Geography and Environment will act as co-investigators, working with partners from Loughborough, UCL and Nottingham.

Their chosen study sites are representative of major pan-Arctic biomes (vegetation types) past and present, such as moist shrub tundra, boreal forest (European Russia, Alaska), dry shrub tundra (W. Greenland). These are characterized by different dominant plant functional types and nutrient regimes.

Using data collected from regionally-replicated radiocarbon-dated lake-sediment profiles they will address a range of issues including: what role vegetation composition has played in determining lake metabolic state, whether Arctic lakes always been important sites of C mineralization and to what extent are in-lake C dynamics a function of lake biological structure (trophic interactions, biodiversity).

An improved understanding of the interaction of catchment dynamics and lake C-processing will allow the role of arctic lakes to be incorporated into evaluations of the current arctic carbon budget and will contribute to modelling of possible futures. Key findings will be an understanding of the resilience of lake function in the face of vegetation change, the rate of lake response to previous changes, if observed, and the potential for tipping points in lake C-processing and trophic structure to occur.

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