Carbon goes missing in Alaska

20-year Arctic tundra soil experiment adds gloom to predicted global warming effects

Nick Atkinson(nwa@entangled.org)
Sep 22, 2004

A study led by the University of Florida's Michelle Mack contradicts the widely held assumption that Arctic tundra experiencing the effects of global warming might lock up carbon through increased plant production. The findings, published this week in Nature, provide the first experimental evidence that even though plant growth increases, the tundra habitat as a whole suffers a net carbon loss.

That should hasten the effects of global warming, the authors note, as fragile high-latitude ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change, but hold the potential to contribute to its effects.

Since 1980, climate biologists such as study coauthor Terry Chapin have been enriching plots of moist Arctic tundra (MAT) with a combination of nitrogen and phosphorus. One widely held prediction is that warmer MAT soils will experience an increase in nutrient availability as a result of the faster decomposition of organic material, and it is this process they...

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