Today we took carbon flux measurements on Litchfield Island. We measure how much CO2 the plants are taking up (through photosynthesis) and we measure how much CO2 is leaving the ecosystem (at least the ecosystem within the collar that we measure). The net balance between the two is important: will warming result in more CO2 leaving the soil or will warming positively affect plants so they take up more CO2? If warming has a greater effect on CO2 leaving the ecosystem, this would be bad news. Why? because the reduced capacity of ecosystems to take up atmospheric CO2 would lead to more CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere and thus contributing to more warming!
Litchfield may be my favorite site. It is a specially protected area that requires a permit (mine is ACA 2019-007) and thus only few people have visited here.
Our site is halfway up a rocky hill. See photo below that Dr. Zicheng Yu took when he was sampling peat cores (see day 52 for his research). You can even see Palmer Station in the background! In the white box you can see Kelly, Alicia, and I!
To get good carbon flux measurements we have to air the chamber in between measurements, and then we are ready for the next measurement. According to our instrument the atmospheric CO2 here is 405 ppm. When I started my PhD in 2007 it was at 384 ppm!
We will take weekly measurements so we can also see how the vegetation responds over the rest of the Antarctic growing season.
I can’t wait to be back there.