Characterized by vast amounts of carbon stored in permafrost and a rapidly evolving landscape, the Arctic is an important focal point for the study of climate change. These are sensitive systems, yet the mechanisms responsible for those sensitivities remain poorly understood and inadequately represented in Earth System Models. The NGEE Arctic project seeks to reduce uncertainty in climate prediction by better understanding critical land-atmosphere feedbacks in terrestrial ecosystems of Alaska.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
A second day out Kougarok Road...
This morning we drove back out the Kougarok Road to begin
our day. The drive was not as long as yesterday; we reached our destination
after 64 miles. According to Guido, this was his Site 5 and it also represented a
drained lake basin similar to the one we previously worked at further down the road. This
feature, however, was smaller with a more abrupt transition from upland to
basin. The transition area was dense with woody shrubs, while the basin was wet
and contained a variety of sedges and grasses.
Guido established this site not too long ago and, unlike
the other sites, this one is instrumented with a tripod-mounted weather station
where air and soil temperatures are monitored, along with radiation and
relative humidity. Data is logged, stored, and then uploaded via a satellite
weekly. There is also a 4.5 meter borehole nearby that allows an accurate
record of temperatures below-ground to be obtained. This is important when
working in these environments. In looking at this installation, one cannot help
but see that all wires and cables are housed within flexible conduit. This
protects the cables from being chewed on by rodents and foxes. Damage like this
can be a big problem for remote instrument locations, and we have experienced
instrument failures in Barrow for just this reason.
Once we got our bearings and examined the general area, we
laid out transects like yesterday. We had a good routine and everyone knew
their job. Victoria set up vegetation plots and conducted plant composition
surveys; Jenny and Santonu started gathering data with the ASD
specroradiometer; Guido and Dan marked all locations with dGPS; and Rich and I
harvested the vegetation plots. Harvesting the small plots was a little harder
than it was yesterday thanks in large part to the presence of woody shrubs,
One thing that was new today was our goal of inserting
ion exchange resins into the soil to get a sense for nutrient availability in
the various areas along the transect. Rich and Victoria have used a commercial
"Plant Root Simulator" or PRS probe for this purpose last year in
Barrow with good results and wanted to try them at Site 5 as well. The PRS
probes comes with a membrane that contains either an anion or cation exchange
resin. Probes are installed in the ground, you then can come back in several
months and remove them for analysis. You can specify the nutrients to be
analyzed, but we will certainly want estimates of NO3- and NH4+ availability.
We will be back later in the summer to recover these probes.
Our trips out the Kougarok Road required us to stop this morning at the Bonanza Express for fuel. Because gas is brought in
on barges each year the price of fuel in Nome is generally high. Gas in Barrow
is also expensive; slightly more on average than Nome.