Thomas A. Douglas


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Carbon and nitrogen cycling dynamics following permafrost thaw in the Northwest Territories, Canada
Catherine M. Dieleman, Nicola J. Day, Jean Holloway, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Thomas A. Douglas, M. R. Turetsky
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 845

Rapid climate warming across northern high latitudes is leading to permafrost thaw and ecosystem carbon release while simultaneously impacting other biogeochemical cycles including nitrogen. We used a two-year laboratory incubation study to quantify concomitant changes in carbon and nitrogen pool quantity and quality as drivers of potential CO2 production in thawed permafrost soils from eight soil cores collected across the southern Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada. These data were contextualized via in situ annual thaw depth measurements from 2015 to 2019 at 40 study sites that varied in burn history. We found with increasing time since experimental thaw the dissolved carbon and nitrogen pool quality significantly declined, indicating sustained microbial processing and selective immobilization across both pools. Piecewise structural equation modeling revealed CO2 trends were predominantly predicted by initial soil carbon content with minimal influence of dissolved phase carbon. Using these results, we provide a first-order estimate of potential near-surface permafrost soil losses of up to 80 g C m−2 over one year in southern NWT, exceeding regional historic mean primary productivity rates in some areas. Taken together, this research provides mechanistic knowledge needed to further constrain the permafrost‑carbon feedback and parameterize Earth system models, while building on empirical evidence that permafrost soils are at high risk of becoming weaker carbon sinks or even significant carbon sources under a changing climate.


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Shallow soils are warmer under trees and tall shrubs across Arctic and Boreal ecosystems
Heather Kropp, M. M. Loranty, Susan M. Natali, Alexander Kholodov, A. V. Rocha, Isla H. Myers‐Smith, Benjamin W Abbot, Jakob Abermann, E. Blanc‐Betes, Daan Blok, Gesche Blume‐Werry, Julia Boike, A. L. Breen, Sean M. P. Cahoon, Casper T. Christiansen, Thomas A. Douglas, Howard E. Epstein, G. V. Frost, Mathias Goeckede, Toke T. Høye, Steven D. Mamet, J. A. O’Donnell, David Olefeldt, Gareth K. Phoenix, V. G. Salmon, A. Britta K. Sannel, Sharon L. Smith, Oliver Sonnentag, Lydia Smith Vaughn, Mathew Williams, Bo Elberling, Laura Gough, Jan Hjort, Peter M. Lafleur, Eugénie Euskirchen, M.M.P.D. Heijmans, Elyn Humphreys, Hiroyasu Iwata, Benjamin M. Jones, M. Torre Jorgenson, Inge Grünberg, Yongwon Kim, James A. Laundre, Marguerite Mauritz, Anders Michelsen, Gabriela Schaepman‐Strub, Ken D. Tape, Masahito Ueyama, Bang-Yong Lee, Kirsty Langley, Magnus Lund
Environmental Research Letters, Volume 16, Issue 1

Abstract Soils are warming as air temperatures rise across the Arctic and Boreal region concurrent with the expansion of tall-statured shrubs and trees in the tundra. Changes in vegetation structure and function are expected to alter soil thermal regimes, thereby modifying climate feedbacks related to permafrost thaw and carbon cycling. However, current understanding of vegetation impacts on soil temperature is limited to local or regional scales and lacks the generality necessary to predict soil warming and permafrost stability on a pan-Arctic scale. Here we synthesize shallow soil and air temperature observations with broad spatial and temporal coverage collected across 106 sites representing nine different vegetation types in the permafrost region. We showed ecosystems with tall-statured shrubs and trees (>40 cm) have warmer shallow soils than those with short-statured tundra vegetation when normalized to a constant air temperature. In tree and tall shrub vegetation types, cooler temperatures in the warm season do not lead to cooler mean annual soil temperature indicating that ground thermal regimes in the cold-season rather than the warm-season are most critical for predicting soil warming in ecosystems underlain by permafrost. Our results suggest that the expansion of tall shrubs and trees into tundra regions can amplify shallow soil warming, and could increase the potential for increased seasonal thaw depth and increase soil carbon cycling rates and lead to increased carbon dioxide loss and further permafrost thaw.

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Impact of wildfire on permafrost landscapes: A review of recent advances and future prospects
Jean Holloway, Antoni G. Lewkowicz, Thomas A. Douglas, Xiaoying Li, M. R. Turetsky, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Huijun Jin
Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, Volume 31, Issue 3

Changes in the frequency and extent of wildfires are expected to lead to substantial and irreversible alterations to permafrost landscapes under a warming climate. Here we review recent publications (2010–2019) that advance our understanding of the effects of wildfire on surface and ground temperatures, on active layer thickness and, where permafrost is ice‐rich, on ground subsidence and the development of thermokarst features. These thermal and geomorphic changes are initiated immediately following wildfire and alter the hydrology and biogeochemistry of permafrost landscapes, including the release of previously frozen carbon. In many locations, permafrost has been resilient, with key characteristics such as active layer thickness returning to pre‐fire conditions after several decades. However, permafrost near its southern limit is losing this resiliency as a result of ongoing climate warming and increasingly common vegetation state changes. Shifts in fire return intervals, severity and extent are expected to alter the trajectories of wildfire impacts on permafrost, and to enlarge spatial impacts to more regularly include the burning of tundra areas. Modeling indicates some lowland boreal forest and tundra environments will remain resilient while uplands and areas with thin organic layers and dry soils will experience rapid and irreversible permafrost degradation. More work is needed to relate modeling to empirical studies, particularly incorporating dynamic variables such as soil moisture, snow and thermokarst development, and to identify post‐fire permafrost responses for different landscape types and regions. Future progress requires further collaboration among geocryologists, ecologists, hydrologists, biogeochemists, modelers and remote sensing specialists.


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Missing pieces to modeling the Arctic-Boreal puzzle
Joshua B. Fisher, D. J. Hayes, Christopher R. Schwalm, D. N. Huntzinger, Eric Stofferahn, Kevin Schaefer, Yiqi Luo, Stan D. Wullschleger, Scott J. Goetz, Charles E. Miller, P. C. Griffith, Sarah Chadburn, Abhishek Chatterjee, Philippe Ciais, Thomas A. Douglas, Hélène Genet, Akihiko Ito, C. S. R. Neigh, Benjamin Poulter, Brendan M. Rogers, Oliver Sonnentag, Hanqin Tian, Weile Wang, Yongkang Xue, Zong‐Liang Yang, Ning Zeng, Zhen Zhang
Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Issue 2

Author(s): Fisher, JB; Hayes, DJ; Schwalm, CR; Huntzinger, DN; Stofferahn, E; Schaefer, K; Luo, Y; Wullschleger, SD; Goetz, S; Miller, CE; Griffith, P; Chadburn, S; Chatterjee, A; Ciais, P; Douglas, TA; Genet, H; Ito, A; Neigh, CSR; Poulter, B; Rogers, BM; Sonnentag, O; Tian, H; Wang, W; Xue, Y; Yang, ZL; Zeng, N; Zhang, Z | Abstract: NASA has launched the decade-long Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE). While the initial phases focus on field and airborne data collection, early integration with modeling activities is important to benefit future modeling syntheses. We compiled feedback from ecosystem modeling teams on key data needs, which encompass carbon biogeochemistry, vegetation, permafrost, hydrology, and disturbance dynamics. A suite of variables was identified as part of this activity with a critical requirement that they are collected concurrently and representatively over space and time. Individual projects in ABoVE may not capture all these needs, and thus there is both demand and opportunity for the augmentation of field observations, and synthesis of the observations that are collected, to ensure that science questions and integrated modeling activities are successfully implemented.

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Reviews and syntheses: Changing ecosystem influences on soil thermal regimes in northern high-latitude permafrost regions
M. M. Loranty, Benjamin W. Abbott, Daan Blok, Thomas A. Douglas, Howard E. Epstein, Bruce C. Forbes, Benjamin M. Jones, Alexander Kholodov, Heather Kropp, Avni Malhotra, Steven D. Mamet, Isla H. Myers‐Smith, Susan M. Natali, J. A. O’Donnell, Gareth K. Phoenix, A. V. Rocha, Oliver Sonnentag, Ken D. Tape, Donald A. Walker
Biogeosciences, Volume 15, Issue 17

Abstract. Soils in Arctic and boreal ecosystems store twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, a portion of which may be released as high-latitude soils warm. Some of the uncertainty in the timing and magnitude of the permafrost–climate feedback stems from complex interactions between ecosystem properties and soil thermal dynamics. Terrestrial ecosystems fundamentally regulate the response of permafrost to climate change by influencing surface energy partitioning and the thermal properties of soil itself. Here we review how Arctic and boreal ecosystem processes influence thermal dynamics in permafrost soil and how these linkages may evolve in response to climate change. While many of the ecosystem characteristics and processes affecting soil thermal dynamics have been examined individually (e.g., vegetation, soil moisture, and soil structure), interactions among these processes are less understood. Changes in ecosystem type and vegetation characteristics will alter spatial patterns of interactions between climate and permafrost. In addition to shrub expansion, other vegetation responses to changes in climate and rapidly changing disturbance regimes will affect ecosystem surface energy partitioning in ways that are important for permafrost. Lastly, changes in vegetation and ecosystem distribution will lead to regional and global biophysical and biogeochemical climate feedbacks that may compound or offset local impacts on permafrost soils. Consequently, accurate prediction of the permafrost carbon climate feedback will require detailed understanding of changes in terrestrial ecosystem distribution and function, which depend on the net effects of multiple feedback processes operating across scales in space and time.