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I've seen numbers that show that the amount of carbon locked in the Taiga is 8.8 kg/m2 for a total of 84 x 109 T C (giga-tonnes) - ie several billion supertankers worth.

I've also seen figures from Russia that show that an annual rise in average temperature of 2-3 degs C in the Taiga region would turn it into a tinderbox. Siberian forest fires are already a huge problem.

Although focused on Finland, The Finnish Forest Research Institute (METLA) has global coverage and interests.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:14:33 AM EST
Yes, but at the same time, the fossil record proves that there have been episodes of higher temperature in the last few million years, which have not released gigatons of methane from the permafrost or the sea clathrates. So climate scientist do not know where we stand here, the truth is we have no clear understanding of how methane gets locked up in the first place, and what exactly is needed to unlock it.

Pierre
by Pierre on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:19:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree we don't know for sure, since we don't know the role of airborne or ground mositure in the last few million years. But, anecdotally, I have a few friends who fly to China from Finland regularly and all report increasing evidence of major fires during recent summers.

*Fire, Climate Change, and Carbon Cycling in the Boreal Forest edited by Eric Kasishke

*The Role of Fire in Northern Circumpolar Ecosystems (SCOPE Report) by Ross W. Wein

*Fire in Ecosystems of Boreal Eurasia (Forestry Sciences) by Johann Georg Goldammer

*Global Biomass Burning: Atmospheric, Climatic, and Biospheric Implications by Joel S. Levine

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:34:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but burning releases CO2. unlocking permafrost methane or clathrate releases, well, methane, which more abundant in those fossil reservoirs than burnable biomass on the surface, and also methane has 20x more efficient greenhouse effect. So it super-spike in atmospheric methane would be a near-extinction-of-life event. The fossil records show these happened many times, some of these possibly triggered by methane or sulfur releases (from volcanoes). But in the last few million years (where ice cores give us methane ppm), we know there has been no super-spike in methane, despite a few episodes of significantly warmer-than-present temperatures.

Pierre
by Pierre on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 08:38:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Related to that is the impact of changing rainfall patterns on forests. Here in California the heavily forested Sierra Nevada is facing a devastating impact from climate change. Already we're seeing how drought has weakened Southern California forests and worsened fires there.

Dead forests burn, and burning surely contributes CO2 to the atmosphere...

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 01:44:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah. I think by preventing the forests from burning naturally and pumping CO2 into the atmosphere we've messed up the climate and the natural carbon capture function of forests.

Fire is part of the ecosystem. After years of preventing the forest fires, forestry practices have managed to weaken the forests themselves. I think the CO2 release from forest fire is part of the earth's carbon capture system, but I believe we've hijacked the forests - preventing them from burning and allowing to absorb the carbon dioxide we emit from fossil fuels.

The weakened forests have allowed pests to further damage and weaken the trees. For example, the pine beetle threatens Canada's boreal forest.

Mountain pine beetles began invading parts of Alberta four years ago. If the beetles jump from the lodgepole pine to the jack pine, an infestation could wipe out billions of trees all the way to the East Coast, he said.

Jasper National Park warden Dave Smith said because Canadians are so good at preventing fires, the forests are old, weak and susceptible to infestation...

Global warming has also helped the pine beetle along, as cold winters can help slow infestations.

by Magnifico on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 03:18:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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