Research questions addressed in Phase 1 of the NGEE Arctic project focused on tundra ecosystems found on the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO) near Barrow, Alaska. The BEO is typical of the coastal plain that occurs across the North Slope of Alaska. This area was chosen to represent a cold, carbon-rich, and continuous permafrost region located at the northern extent of an Alaskan landscape and climatic gradient. Lowland landscapes characterized by polygons, thaw lakes, and drained thaw lake basins, such as the BEO comprise ~30% of the Arctic and sub-Arctic.
In Phase 2, the NGEE Arctic project expanded to include sites on the Seward Peninsula. This region occupies a highly dynamic transition between Arctic and boreal ecosystems. It is characterized by warm, discontinuous permafrost, well-defined watersheds, shallow bedrock, great diversity in vegetation composition, and is experiencing increasingly frequent disturbances. Approximately 40% of the Arctic is classified as hilly, vegetated, soil-mantled landscapes with significant carbon stored in active layer soils and permafrost.
An added focus on the Seward Peninsula will allow the NGEE Arctic project to compare and contrast knowledge gained on the North Slope, as well as to continue refinement of our scaling and modeling approaches to predict ecosystem-climate feedbacks. Establishing sites on the Seward Peninsula is not only critical for the NGEE Arctic goal of representing landscapes with strong lateral flows, but will also provide a natural point of connection to the ACME land model, which treats subgrid heterogeneity as sub-watershed units that are organized around variation in elevation, slope, and aspect.