The Arctic, a real laboratory in summer

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Melting sea ice and permafrost, invasive species, lengthening of the growing season for plants and bacteria: climate change will have exacerbated consequences in the Far North. Several Quebec researchers are taking advantage of the beautiful season to take measures. They will be able to tell us what the future holds for the Arctic. Published at 12:00 pm Mathieu Perreault La Presse Arctic permafrost methane or CO2 is one of the hotspots of global warming. These permafrost soils host a lot of organic matter that, as it thaws, breaks down and releases methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas. But the phenomenon is countered by a shift in microbial populations in favor of species that feed on methane. PHOTO FROM SCOTTY CREEK RESEARCH STATION SITE Oliver Sonnentag, at a soil gas emission station “Soil gas emissions are monitored in a 2,000 km network from Saskatchewan to the Arctic “, explains Oliver Sonnentag, of McGill University, attached to Yellowknife. “More methane is seen in the south, but in the north it is more limited due to bacterial changes. Microbes that feed on methane release CO2, a phenomenon offset by the absorption of atmospheric CO2 by plants, which grow more due to longer and hotter summers Mr Sonnentag’s project envisages the training of Aboriginal people who maintain the collection stations and collect the data every month during the winter Tidal turbines and freezing Solar energy is not suitable for the Arctic, because the days are very short in the winter. Wind turbines suffer from frost, as do wind turbines (driven by the current of rivers and streams). The Canadian subsidiary of an American tidal turbine company wants to remedy this problem. PHOTO PROVIDED BY ORPC CANADA A tidal turbine is tested by ORPC on the Kvichak River, Alaska. “Canada’s hydrokinetic potential is very large,” explains Alexandre Paris, who heads ORPC Canada. “In Quebec, many large pr Hydro-Quebec developers could manufacture tidal turbines. We have been testing a tidal turbine in Alaska for three years now and it is working well. We are also testing this summer at a federal research facility in Ottawa and are collecting hydrologic data at sites in Nunavik. The challenge for tidal turbines in the Arctic is “frazil,” a state between water and ice that can cause ice blocks to form on structures. Microbes as Mars At McGill University, Lyle White compares the microbes of the Arctic to those that might be found on Mars or on Jupiter’s moon Europa, which has an ocean under a blanket of ice. MCGILL UNIVERSITY WEBSITE PHOTO Lyle Whyte in the Arctic with biologist Nadia Mykytczuk of Laurentian University working at the McGill High Arctic Research Station on Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut. PHOTO FROM EUREKALERT WEBSITE Elst Hammer Hot Spring “Can reproduce at -15 degrees. More recently, White and colleagues described bacteria that can feed on methane in the Lost Hammer hot spring on Axel Heiberg Island. These bacteria could come into action if there are oil spills in the Arctic, due to the exploitation of deposits or maritime traffic. Bylot Island Geese In the 1980s, one of the world’s largest populations of snow geese on Bylot Island in the Baffin Sea suddenly exploded. The phenomenon was observed because there has been a research station since the 1950s. “We decided to look at the effect on the island’s ecosystem, which means we have detailed data for more than 30 years,” explains Pierre Legagneux, from Laval. University “The goose population has stabilized, but we don’t see any impact on the vegetation. We try to understand what is happening. » PHOTO DOMINIQUE BERTEAUX FROM THE JOINT ARCTIC GEESE PLAN WEBSITE Larger snow geese on Bylot Island This is valuable data for understanding the impacts of climate change. “Elsewhere, lemming populations have been observed to suffer from increased winter rain, which hardens the surface of the snow. We haven’t seen that yet, but we’re still watching to see if it’s happening on Bylot Island as well. Marine Forests The Arctic may not have large forests, but its seas have “forests” of kelp, a brown algae where many fish and animals hide and find food. PHOTO FROM LAVAL UNIVERSITY WEBSITE Un ” arctic kelp forest Philippe Archambault of Université Laval is a specialist in arctic kelp, which should become denser in southern Hudson Bay by 2050 and off the coast of Labrador, among others. The her team conducts educational activities on the importance of algae to Inuit communities.Plastic and Kittiwakes McGill PhD student Julia Baak is spending her summer in Iceland, where she is attaching tracking sensors to kittens’ paws to track their annual migrations COMP PHOTO JULIA BAAK’S TWITTER TEA Julia Baak with a kitten “Later we will assess whether they are affected by plastic pollution and, if so, we will see where these pollutants come from in their journey. »
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