26 June, 2001
The first day of rain all day. You can tell the weather is getting warmer; the ice blocks on the ocean are shrinking, the ocean is changing into water and every once in a while a mosquito is spotted by someone. Fog and a gentle, constant rain fell all day but with out trusty Gore-Tex jackets we braved the elements to go out into the field and count more plants in Glen's plots. We completed two plots this morning and three this afternoon, only 11 to go! We'll have a 4th person tomorrow, Lettie, is flying into Barrow this evening from San Diego to join the team till August. She is an undergrad science major in the same program Michelle is in. We will be happy to see her!
Like rainy days most places things seemed quieter than usual. The fog rolled in from the beach and you could see it drifting across the road on our drive back for lunch. After lunch we were rewarded for our perseverance, the fox came to visit us twice today. She doesn't seem to be bothered by us at all. She walked straight up to us this afternoon but I must have had shutter shock because my picture only shows her ears.
Counting plants - we will be spending days doing this, why is it so important? Glen is wanting to track growth patterns in a number of species under different conditions possible as a result of changing climate here in the arctic. His treatments are tundra with differing water levels and heating amounts. Within the 18 plots at his site he has chosen to measure 4 species, one grass and 3 vascular plants. We are taking down the initial measurements this week and will relocate the same plants in approximately 3 weeks to re-measure them. At the end of the season Glen will again relocate the same plants and do final measurements. The repeatability is an important part of this part. Without a way to find the same plants three times over our data would not be worthwhile. In this way he will be able to track growth patterns, and growth rates of a representative number of each species types. Adding the treatments in each plot he can then compare if certain plot variables are more favorable to growth or not.
There are five main growth variables for arctic vegetation: temperature, snow free period, light quality, nutrient availability and soil moisture. Logically one would think that if the climate warms more plants would grow thus acting as a sink for CO2. What has been happening however is rather counterintuitive for the most part. Plants, after a short spurt in production, cannot continue photosynthesizing at an accelerated rate due to lack of nutrients in the arctic soil. Tundra soil, while composed of peat, has its nutrients locked up in unusable forms of nitrogen thus unavailable for plants. The greening of the arctic will probably not occur as a result of a warmer climate. With a warmer climate, as Glen's heated plots are simulating, plant respiration increases with increased root production and this process releases more CO2 into the atmosphere. The soil moisture is related to this. More bacteria and decomposers can operate in an underground atmosphere where more pore spaces are open due to drying soils. So with warmer temperatures, more plant respiration, more CO2 released equals positive feedback of a warmer climate. The plants become a net source of CO2.
Glen wants to try and define this more specifically to see if he can determine what each specific species will do in the overall picture. How much CO2 flux is occurring will also be looked at on a species level. We will take flux measurements of individual plants, estimate the % makeup in the plot and then with the cuvette measurements of the entire plot taken during diurnals try and proportion the CO2 flux for each of the four individual species for each given treatment.
The past diurnal we completed about a week ago produced data representative of last years but there were some leaky plots. Since then the cuvette has been worked on and the next diurnal is scheduled for this Monday.
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