Syntheses of wetland methane emissions at high latitudes: exploring sensitivities to climate change and permafrost thaw.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 4:00 PM
David Olefeldt, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada and Merritt R Turetsky, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada
Climate change and associated permafrost thaw has the potential to increase methane emissions from high latitude wetlands, thus amplifying human-caused climate change. Methane monitoring at high latitude wetlands have been carried out since the 1970s, and at this time there are published data from a large number of sites and some individual sites have data that span more than a decade. By synthesizing data both across and within sites it is possible to improve our understanding of environmental and physical controls on methane emissions. It is clear from comparing mean growing season methane emissions across sites that site wetness, soil temperature and vegetation composition have strong and interacting effects. At individual sites it is also evident that soil temperatures and wetness co-vary at inter-annual scales as a result of physical processes, with compounding influences on methane emissions. Further the presence of certain sedge species, often found in fens at high latitudes strongly influence sensitivities to soil temperature and wetness. Shifts in functional relationships as related to ecosystem structure is central for methane emissions at high latitude wetlands, given the hydrological and ecological changes that occur with permafrost thaw and thermokarst landform development. Hence, in order to more accurately project future methane emissions from high latitudes at a pan-arctic scale, it is necessary to include a spatial representation of thermokarst development as well as ecosystem-appropriate functional relationships between emissions and environmental variables.