Mapping and understanding the vulnerability of northern peatlands to permafrost thaw at scales relevant to community adaptation planning
Kokelj, S. V.
Baltzer, J. L.
Turetsky, M. R.
IOP Science Publishing
Developing spatially explicit permafrost datasets and climate assessments at scales relevant to northern communities is increasingly important as land users and decision makers incorporate changing permafrost conditions in community and adaptation planning. This need is particularly strong within the discontinuous permafrost zone of the Northwest Territories (NWT) Canada where permafrost peatlands are undergoing rapid thaw due to a warming climate. Current data products for predicting landscapes at risk of thaw are generally built at circumpolar scales and do not lend themselves well to fine-scale regional interpretations. Here, we present a new permafrost vulnerability dataset that assesses the degree of permafrost thaw within peatlands across a 750 km latitudinal gradient in the NWT. This updated dataset provides spatially explicit estimates of where peatland thermokarst potential exists, thus making it much more suitable for local, regional or community usage. Within southern peatland complexes, we show that permafrost thaw affects up to 70% of the peatland area and that thaw is strongly mediated by both latitude and elevation, with widespread thaw occuring particularly at low elevations. At the northern end of our latitudinal gradient, peatland permafrost remains climate-protected with relatively little thaw. Collectively these results demonstrate the importance of scale in permafrost analyses and mapping if research is to support northern communities and decision makers in a changing climate. This study offers a more scale-appropriate approach to support community adaptative planning under scenarios of continued warming and widespread permafrost thaw.
Open access article. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0) applies
Permafrost thaw , Community adaptation , Spatial dataset , Peatland permafrost
Gibson, C., Cottenie, K., Gingras-Hill, T., Kokelj, S. V., Baltzer, J. L., Chasmer, L., & Turetsky, M. R. (2021). Mapping and understanding the vulnerability of northern peatlands to permafrost thaw at scales relevant to community adaptation planning. Environmental Research Letters, 16(5), Article 055022. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/abe74b