A recent paper in
the journal Nature that is co-authored
by UT Arlington College of Science associate professor of biology Laura Gough
is challenging long-held ideas about the effects of temperature increases in
the Alaskan tundra.
contain nearly half of global soil carbon, and scientists have been concerned that
warming temperatures could lead to increased microbial activity and more of
that carbon being released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Increased
carbon dioxide releases would then speed warming even more, enhancing the
research team working at the U.S. Arctic Long Term Ecological Research Site in
northern Alaska found that carbon stocks in soils subjected to 20 years of
experimental warming did not differ from soils that experienced ambient air
temperatures. Gough and her co-authors believe a complicated interplay between
increased woody-shrub growth and the soil could be counteracting the warming
But, even with
their surprising findings, Gough and her fellow researchers say it’s too soon
to say what the long-term effects of climate change on carbon stocks will be.
More study is needed in the form of continued monitoring as the Arctic
continues warming and additional experiments that alter temperatures over the
long-term. These results highlight the need for long-term studies as earlier
results from similar experiments found different short-term responses, Gough
“This is what
happened over this time period, but will it hold? We don’t know,” Gough said.
Co-authors on the
work were from UC Santa Barbara, Colorado State University and the Marine
Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. A press release from UC Santa
Barbara is available here: http://www.ia.ucsb.edu/pa/display.aspx?pkey=3013.
The University of Texas at Arlington is a
comprehensive research institution of more than 33,800 students and 2,200
faculty members in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.