Arctic carbon cycling

Torben R Christensen, SØREN Rysgaard, JØRGEN Bendtsen, Brent Else, Ronnie N Glud, J. van Huissteden, F.J.W. Parmentier, Torsten Sachs, J.E. Vonk

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The marine Arctic is considered a net carbon sink, with
large regional differences in uptake rates. More regional
modelling and observational studies are required to
reduce the uncertainty among current estimates.
Robust projections for how the Arctic Ocean carbon
sink may evolve in the future are currently lacking.
Direct connections have been documented between
sea-ice dynamics and carbon cycling in marine
ecosystems and on land. Projections suggest further
sea-ice decline may accelerate changes in carbon
cycling dynamics at sea and on land. Although rivertransported
organic and inorganic carbon plays a major
role in the marine Arctic carbon cycle this is not well
studied. Changes in terrestrial ecosystems may also
affect sea-ice decline – at least in the long term.
Permafrost underlies ~75% of the area draining into the
Arctic Ocean but its hydrology is poorly understood,
especially under global warming. Arctic tundra is a
net sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) in the
growing season and the sink strength has more than
doubled since 2000 in Eurasia. In contrast, the few
winter data available show tundra ecosystems are a
net source of atmospheric CO2 in winter. Small features
below the resolution of current lake and wetland
databases may be important controls on carbon
transfer from permafrost soils to the atmosphere.
Earth System Models (ESMs) are not yet able to reliably
simulate the full dynamics of the Arctic carbon cycle.
This is mainly because such models still address
terrestrial and marine systems separately and because
they vary widely in their representation of permafrost.
Further development of ESMs should include a focus
on improving the connections between ocean and land,
especially in the representation of lateral fluxes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSnow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) 2017
Place of PublicationOslo
PublisherAMAP (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme)
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)ISBN 978-82-7971-101-8
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Permafrost
  • Arctic
  • Carbon cycle
  • marine carbon cycle
  • terrestrial carbon cycle

VU Research Profile

  • Science for Sustainability


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