Rapid permafrost collapse shifts Siberian tundra to a methane source

Researchers from Center for Permafrost (CENPERM) has performed an experiment in the tundra of Fareast Siberia by removing the dominant shrub species dwarf birch (Betula nana) to assess the effects on permafrost thaw. Surprisingly, the removal of shrubs led to a rapid incremental increase in summer permafrost thaw depth over the six years of the experiment. This deeper thaw led to a melt of ground-ice and collapse of the tundra surface, turning the original shrub mounds plots into ponds with standing water. The rapid and substantial changes in thaw depth, hydrology and surface elevation dramatically altered the methane-balance from a source to a sink of methane, just five years after the start of the experiment. The experiment showed that plants play a crucial role in the stabilization of permafrost.

The results of the experiment is now published in Nature Climate Change.

Center for Permafrost (CENPERM)Read the Nature article here