Environmental Science Division (EVS)a Division of Argonne National Laboratory
Predictive environmental understanding

Estimating Alaska’s soil carbon stocks: Geospatial analysis determined the distribution of sites needed to estimate Alaska’s soil carbon

December 4, 2017

Predicting how carbon in the soil changes when permafrost changes isn't easy. Alaska's diverse terrain makes it difficult to optimize the placement of data-gathering sites. Researchers led by EVS developed a geospatial approach that integrates existing observations with the climate, land cover (scrub, forest, etc.), geology and more. They determined that 484 new sites were needed to improve estimates of carbon stocks under different environmental conditions.

Permafrost-affected soils store one of the largest reservoirs of organic carbon on the planet. How environmental changes could affect this carbon, including releasing it to the air, are not well known. The magnitude, vulnerability, and spatial distribution of soil carbon stocks are major sources of uncertainty. The study offers locations to guide new field observations. The collected data will constrain uncertainties in soil carbon estimates. In addition, the sites will provide robust spatial benchmarks for evaluating the Earth system modeling results.

Read the full article on the DOE Office of Science website.