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Collaborative Research: Response of Carbon Accumulation in Moss Peatbanks to Past Warm Climates in the Antarctic Peninsula

Intellectual Merit: This research will investigate how Antarctic peat banks have responded to documented past warm climates on the Western Antarctic Peninsula over the last 1000 years. The work will extend understanding of climate controls on peat carbon accumulation to Antarctic peatbanks thus enabling a bi-polar perspective of ?first responder? ecosystem processes under warmer climate conditions. Understanding climate and ecosystem histories will help reveal processes and mechanisms that control the functioning of these and other polar ecosystems. Specifically, the investigators will evaluate outcomes of natural climate-warming experiments that have occurred in the AP region at 65 degrees south over the last 1000 years. They will focus on two warm climate intervals in the Western Antarctic Peninsula: (1) the recent and ongoing warming of up to 6°C in the last century, and (2) the Medieval Warm Period that occurred ~800 years ago. By collecting and analyzing peat cores and other biological and environmental data, the investigators will derive an independent temperature reconstruction from oxygen isotopes of moss cellulose over the last 1000 years to assess peatbank carbon response to documented warm climate conditions. The overall goal of the proposed project is to document formation ages and temporal changes in carbon-accumulating ecosystems over the last millennium in response to climate change as reconstructed from independent proxies. Also, their data will allow the investigators to understand the nature of reconstructed climate change in relation to atmosphere circulation and ocean conditions. Broader impacts: This research is directly relevant to understanding polar processes affecting soil carbon dynamics and will support an early career researcher. This project will provide training for undergraduate students, graduate student and a postdoctoral fellow and will develop teaching modules and outreach activities on polar climate and ecosystem changes.

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