The sudden collapse of thawing soils in the Arctic might double the warming from greenhouse gases

Climate News Network:

“We are watching this sleeping giant wake up right in front of our eyes,” said Merritt Turetsky, an ecologist at the University of Guelph. “We work in areas where permafrost contains a lot of ice, and our field sites are being destroyed by abrupt collapse of this ice, not gradually over decades, but very quickly over months to years.”

“One-fourth of all the land in the northern half of the globe is defined as permafrost. This long-frozen soil is home to the detritus of life over many thousands of years: the remains of plants, animals and microbes. The permanently frozen soils of the region hold, so far in a harmless state, 1,600 billion tonnes of carbon: twice as much as exists in the atmosphere.”

“And as the Arctic warms, this could release ever-greater volumes of a potent greenhouse gas, to accelerate global warming still further, and the consequent collapse of the soil, the flooding and the landslides could change not just the habitat but even the contours of the high latitudes.” Read more . . .

Read the researcher’s article published in Nature (International Journal of Science) April 30, 2019 HERE. It is well worth the time. The first image of the Batagaika crater in eastern Russia is stunning. Look closely at the trees to get a feel for its size and character.

Abrupt thawing of permafrost is dramatic to watch. Returning to field sites in Alaska, for example, we often find that lands that were forested a year ago are now covered with lakes. Rivers that once ran clear are thick with sediment. Hillsides can liquefy, sometimes taking sensitive scientific equipment with them.

Introducing an Important New Web Site: George Monbiot’s “Natural Climate Solutions”

An important new web site was launched by George Monbiot today. It is one of the most impressive and encouraging efforts I have seen. The Guardian published an excellent summary of it HERE. I have included links to all the Natural Climate Solutions Allies on the right-hand side bar of this blog. Please take some time to explore Natural Climate Solutions and its accompanying references. And don’t miss Monbiot’s Guardian Opinion piece HERE.

“Today, a small group of us is launching a campaign for natural climate solutions to receive the commitment and funding they deserve. At the moment, though their potential is huge, they have been marginalized in favour of projects that may be worse than useless, but which are profitable for corporations. Governments discuss the climate crisis and the ecological crisis in separate meetings when both disasters could be addressed together. We have set up a dedicated website, produced an animation and written a letter to governments and international bodies signed by prominent activists, scientists and artists.”

George Monbiot

“Our aim is simple: to catalyse global enthusiasm for drawing down carbon by restoring ecosystems,” said Monbiot, who has written a report for the website. “It is the single most undervalued and underfunded tool for climate mitigation.”

Damian Carrington


Can Soil Microbes Slow Climate Change?

“With global carbon emissions hitting an all-time high in 2018, the world is on a trajectory that climate experts believe will lead to catastrophic warming by 2100 or before. Some of those experts say that to combat the threat, it is now imperative for society to use carbon farming techniques that extract carbon dioxide from the air and store it in soils. Because so much exposed soil across the planet is used for farming, the critical question is whether scientists can find ways to store more carbon while also increasing agricultural yields.”


“Johnson asserts that if his approach were used across agriculture internationally, the entire world’s carbon output from 2016 could be stored on just 22 percent of the globe’s arable land. He says that would provide net benefits of $500 to $600 per acre rather than net costs, if credits are provided for carbon capture and related benefits are counted, such as reduced irrigation and increased soil fertility.” Read more . . .

Coastal Blue Carbon: Mangroves

In broad terms, “blue carbon” refers to carbon stored, sequestered and cycled through coastal and ocean ecosystems, mainly mangroves, tidal salt marshes, and seagrass meadows. When protected or restored, coastal blue carbon ecosystems act as carbon sinks. When degraded or destroyed, they emit the carbon they have stored into the oceans and atmosphere and become sources of greenhouse gases.

Mangroves are among the oldest and most productive wetland forests on our planet. Found in the intertidal zone, they are uniquely adapted to survive highly saline and anoxic conditions. They are ideal habitats for many terrestrial and marine species, carbon sinks and natural barriers against storm surges and coastal erosion. Mangroves provide invaluable services but have been declining worldwide as a result of anthropogenic and other threats.

It is important to note that the ecosystem services provided by mangroves is not limited to carbon storage and sequestration. They also support improved coastal water quality, provide habitats for a great variety of fish species, and protect coasts against floods and storms. Recent estimates revealed that mangroves are worth at least US$ 1.6 billion each year in ecosystem services.

The following movie, Guardians of our Coast, describes these processes, and includes some extraordinary photography. It showcases the fascinating web of life that surrounds these tidal forests. The movie highlights the unique collaboration between governments, regional and local institutions, NGOs and local communities, in efforts to save these vulnerable ecosystems and restore them to their former glory. Highly recommended.