|Let it snow... an ice covered Lake Disko (Photo by E.Pearson)|
|Disko island lake number 2 (of many thousands), I am on the right and my field assistant Joe Bailey on the left.|
As we visited Disko Island in spring the lakes were still frozen so we had to core through the surface ice into the sediments underneath. We also surveyed the areas around the lakes to look at the soils and plants that subsequently might get washed in and then have their carbon stored on the lake bed. Access to the lakes was by snowmobile which was an amazing experience, with lots of helpful logistical support provided by the University of Copenhagen’s Arctic Station.
|Me placing the samples into a mass spectrometer|
for isotope analysis at the BGS (Photo Jonathan Dean).
So what have I found out and how do these lakes’ influence the global carbon cycle?
It’s complicated! The thousands of Arctic lakes contain a lot of carbon which is effectively being stored in the sediments, preventing more CO2 from entering the atmosphere (carbon from soils often reverts into CO2 through bacterial action). At the moment the larger lakes are storing more carbon than is being released as CO2 back into the atmosphere. What I now need to investigate is if this was the case in the past when conditions were warmer, for example the Medieval Warm Period (AD950 to 1100) or early Holocene (c. 8,000-6,000 years ago) warm period. When I have figured this out I can estimate how much additional CO2 will go into the atmosphere from Arctic lakes during a warmer world. Release of this store of Arctic carbon will further exasperate global warming.
I am very pleased with the progress of my project so far and am looking forward to new data in the New Year which will help to make my initial interpretations more robust. The collaborations in my project have really helped ‘add value’ to my project and training and I am very grateful to everyone who has been involved. Big thanks especially to Suzanne McGowan and George Swann (Nottingham), Emma Person (Newcastle) and Melanie Leng (BGS).
Happy New Year, I will look forward to updating you later in the year!
Mark is doing his PhD research at the University of Nottingham in the School of Geography, he has recently started a new aspect of his project within the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry at the BGS.