8 December 2017

Research

Mineral Weathering in Thawing Permafrost: Causes and Consequences (WeThaw)

The challenge

Enhanced thawing of the permafrost in response to warming of the Earth’s high latitude regions exposes previously frozen soil organic carbon (SOC) to microbial decomposition, liberating carbon to the atmosphere and creating a dangerous positive feedback on climate warming. Thawing the permafrost may also unlock a cascade of mineral weathering reactions. These will be accompanied by mineral nutrient release and generation of reactive surfaces which will influence plant growth, microbial SOC degradation and SOC stabilisation. Arguably, weathering is an important but hitherto neglected component for correctly assessing and predicting the permafrost carbon feedback.


Project objectives

The goal of WeThaw is to provide a comprehensive assessment of the mineral weathering response in permafrost regions subject to thawing. By addressing this crucial knowledge gap, WeThaw will significantly augment our capacity to develop models that can accurately predict the permafrost carbon feedback.

The WeThaw project is a 5 year research effort funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant to Dr. Sophie Opfergelt at UCLouvain, Belgium.