SOURCE: Phys.org

DATE: March 21, 2019

SNIP: Thawing permafrost in high-altitude mountain ecosystems may be a stealthy, underexplored contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions, new University of Colorado Boulder research shows.

The new findings, published today in the journal Nature Communications, show that alpine tundra in Colorado’s Front Range emits more CO2 than it captures annually, potentially creating a feedback loop that could increase climate warming and lead to even more CO2 emissions in the future.

“Until now, little was known about how alpine tundra behaved with regard to this balance, and especially how it could continue emitting CO2 year after year” John Knowles, lead author of the new study and a former doctoral student in CU Boulder’s Department of Geography and a researcher at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) said. “But now, we have evidence that climate change or another disturbance may be liberating decades-to-centuries-old carbon from this landscape.”