Climate change in the Arctic is progressing rapidly, thawing large areas of permafrost that contain nearly half of the world’s soil organic carbon. Once thawed, this soil carbon is first to be converted to dissolved organic carbon, which is then oxidized by microbes and sunlight to carbon dioxide. The conversion of this carbon pool to greenhouse gases has the potential to double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on a timescale similar to human inputs. Recent data show that sunlight exposure enhances microbial respiration of this dissolved organic carbon by greater than 40 percent compared to carbon held in the dark. The project’s goal is to develop a predictive understanding of how and why photochemical alterations of permafrost dissolved organic carbon lead to increased respiration rates by bacteria.
Proposer’s Name: Byron Crump