Toolik at 1 AM
Home People Research Publications Photos Contact Us


Toolik Field Station, located on Alaska's North Slope, will be a flagship site for the Arctic Observatory Network. The project will also establish a sister site in Cherskii, Russia.

Pan-Arctic Observatory Network for the Study of Landscape Carbon, Water, and Energy Balance
Funded by the National Science Foundation for International Polar Year

Visit the AON website:

Arctic and boreal regions of the world store nearly 40% of the world’s soil carbon, and are warming rapidly.  Changes in vegetation and regional climate expected with global warming will likely alter the energy balance and carbon storage of arctic ecosystems, which has huge potential to feed back to climate by increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.  The US Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) program seeks to develop and deploy a pan-arctic observing system that will measure the full range of continuing changes now underway in the Arctic.  In this project, we will establish two flagship observatories in the U.S. and Russia, and form a pan-Arctic network of observatories through collaboration with existing projects in Sweden, Canada, and Greenland, wherein coordinated measures of landscape-level fluxes of carbon, water, and energy balance are carried out and the results made available in a unified database. This project focuses on simultaneous measurements of carbon, water, and energy fluxes of the terrestrial landscape at hourly, daily, seasonal, and multi-year time scales. These are major regulatory divers of the Arctic system and form key linkages and feedbacks between the land surface, the atmosphere, and the oceans.  We will provide a comprehensive description of the state of the regional Arctic system with respect to these variables, its overall regulation and controlling features, and its interaction with the global system.  In the longer-term, we will provide a legacy of data, a network of observing platforms, and a set of clear protocols for long-term observation and further analysis.   Education of students about these issues will be enhanced through a new UAF course offering, a “Field Course in Arctic Science”, providing undergraduate and graduate students with opportunities to participate in on-going arctic research in the field, in modeling and scaling exercises, and in analysis and synthesis of the data. 

Experimental snow fence located at Toolik Lake Field Station on August 28, 2005.

Experimental Manipulations of Snow-Shrub Interactions
Funded by the National Science Foundation

The focus of this experiment is to understand the mechanisms by which winter processes affect the summer growth of vegetation, and the consequences of shrub expansion under a warming climate for biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen. We have established snowfence manipulations in arctic tussock tundra, low shrub tundra, and taller shrub tundra in order to assess how increased winter snow affects mineralization of N over winter. In addition, we are monitoring growth and recovery from snow-loading of shrubs and other vegetation during spring melting. In summer 2006, we labeled plots on both sides of these snowfences with 15N in order to investigate whether additional snow promotes overwinter mineralization of N, and if so, whether shrubs preferentially absorb this N.  As with our other research, we hope to improve our understanding of land surface changes currently occurring in the Arctic, and their potential impacts on climate.

Measuring a transect amidst the Noatak River Basin in Gates of the Arctic National Park.
Understanding Arctic Shrub Expansion in Gates of the Arctic National Park
Funded by the National Park Service

Shrub expansion and tree-line advance are two of the largest land surface changes expected with climate warming in arctic tundra ecosystems, and are already occurring in locations across the Alaskan North Slope and Brooks Range.  A transition from tundra to shrubs, or shrubs to forest, changes fundamental ecosystem functions such as productivity, surface energy balance and regional climate, C and N dynamics, hydrology, and wildlife habitat.  In addition, vegetation transitions inherently change the character of a landscape.  Understanding the soil and vegetation characteristics associated with areas susceptible to change is crucial for designing National Park monitoring programs. 

In summer of 2006, through a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service Arctic Network, we conducted a research expedition in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Noatak National Park and Preserve to establish baseline inventory and monitoring data in order to identify areas susceptible to shrub expansion. This work is conducted in close collaboration with Dr. Martin Sommerkorn (Macaulay Institute) and Dr. Diane Sanzone (NPS). Preliminary results include characterization of vegetation structure, a regional plant species inventory, baseline repeat photography, and accompanying soil characteristics. Several areas demonstrated patterns of vegetation development consistent with shrub expansion.

Experimentally manipulating plant community composition at Toolik Lake Field Station. Pulling moss out of the ground!

Arctic Plant Community Response to Neighbor Removal and Fertilization
Funded by the National Science Foundation

Research Content Here:

  Meta-Analyses of Community Reduction Experiments
Funded by National Council for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Research Content Here:
  Effects of Biodiversity on Ecosystems and Sustainability in the Americas
Funded by Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research

Research Content Here:

Last Modified 22.03.08