Story posted April 09, 2010
Rusack Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Earth and Oceanographic Science Phil Camill shares his insights about carbon accumulation in northern peatlands in the April 5, 2010, issue of Science News.
The article, "Alaskan Peatlands Expanded Rapidly as Ice Age Waned," examines a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showing that most of Alaska's peatlands formed at a time when the region experienced warmer summers and colder winters than today.
"Early Life History Transitions and Recruitment of Picea Mariana in Thawed Boreal Permafrost Peatlands," a research paper co-authored by Camill, appears in Ecology, a scientific journal.
An excerpt from the article:
This newfound link between carbon accumulation and climate variability is "interesting and provocative," says Philip Camill, a biogeochemist at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. "The warm summers and cold winters were like a one-two punch that maximized carbon accumulation."
By the end of this century, summers in Alaska are expected to be between 3 and 5 degrees C warmer than they are today, says Camill. But that doesn't necessarily bode well for carbon accumulation in peatlands, he notes, because winters are expected to be between 7 and 8 degrees C warmer as well. "There will be more productivity in the summer but more decomposition in the winter," he says, so it's tough to estimate whether peatlands will remain a repository for carbon or whether they'll begin to release more carbon than they accumulate. "It's not clear what the new balance will be," he notes.
Science News is an American bi-weekly magazine devoted to short articles about new scientific and technical developments, typically gleaned from recent scientific and technical journals. It has been published since 1922 by Society for Science & the Public, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 by E. W. Scripps.
A new blog, Global Change: Intersection of Nature and Culture, by Philip Camill explores big questions about society and environmental change.
"When the information deluge only contains laundry lists, factoids and policy play-by-play, there's no theoretical context in which to analyze these things as part of a bigger picture," says Camill, a global change ecologist and leading expert on climate change in boreal and arctic ecosystems. "Global Change forges a new path. I want to analyze environmental change by focusing on the interaction between nature and culture, showcasing big ideas from all disciplines."