U of A Professor Benjamin Runkle Helps to Improve Climate Change Models
University of Arkansas professor Benjamin Runkle is contributing to our understanding of global climate change by studying evapotranspiration in boreal biomes, also known as taiga. He and his colleagues published a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change earlier this month about this understudied landscape.
The taiga is made up of vast forests and peatlands, covering over 30% of forest land around the globe. Peatlands are a type of wetland that are particularly important to global climate because they store more carbon than anywhere else on land. But the way peatlands respond to atmospheric and climate changes is not well understood, so climate models are not entirely accurate for these regions.
Runkle and his colleagues found that peatlands have higher rates of evapotranspiration compared to surrounding forests when the air becomes drier as a result of climate change. When this happens, more and more carbon can be released from these systems, creating a negative feedback loop for climate change, and may also increase the risk of fires spreading across the boreal landscape.
This research will help scientists refine climate change models to better predict future outcomes. You can hear more about their work highlighted on a radio show from the Canadian Broadcast Channel (Vast boreal peatlands may dry up and burn in a warming climate). You can also read their journal article here: Increasing contribution of peatlands to boreal evapotranspiration in a warming climate.
Photo caption: Ben Runkle poses in front of an eddie covariance machine. Courtesy of University Relations, University of Arkansas.