Research Project (2)

Change in the terrestrial ecosystems of the pan-Arctic and effects on climate

Principal Investigator: Atsuko Sugimoto (Hokkaido University)


The Arctic terrestrial system consists of elements such as snow cover, permafrost, soil/vegetation, and water. We believe that the melting of permafrost, change in the albedo through the changes in snow cover and vegetation, and changes in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions have an enormous effect on not only the Arctic climate but also global warming. We aim to clarify the role and function of the Arctic terrestrial system in the climate system, and assess the influence of changes in the Arctic on a global scale. To achieve this goal, we need to understand the state of the Arctic terrestrial system under a rapidly changing environment. We will make field observations on frozen soil, vegetation, production of ecosystems, carbon storage, snow cover and albedo, and methane emission, etc.

To understand the terrestrial ecosystem throughout the circum-polar Arctic region, we will continue our observations at existing field observation sites, where individual researchers have set up their own systems for long-term observations. We will also set up new sites to combine observations using a mobile system to monitor spatial variation and multiple site observations with simple soil temperature probes. Satellite data will also be used for special evaluations, and tree-ring width and isotope data will be taken to investigate environmental changes over a century-long time span. Based on this observational data, we will carry out interdisciplinary studies involving both observation-based and model-based researchers, and then develop terrestrial system models that can reproduce realistic changes in the thawing of frozen soil, vegetation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

By carrying out these research projects, we will contribute to the achievement of strategic research targets ①Understanding the mechanism of warming amplification in the Arctic, and ②Understanding the Arctic system for global climate and future change.

Boring of permafrost (Photo: Atsuko Sugimoto, Hokkaido Univ.)