One of the most prominent German permafrost activities in 2005 was the Second European Conference on Permafrost (EUCOP II) hosted by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam (see report in Global and Regional Activities).
Field activities organized by the Periglacial Research section of the AWI Potsdam mainly focused in 2005 on Siberia (6 expeditions), Alaska (1) and Antarctica (1). An offshore permafrost drilling campaign was performed in the Western Laptev Sea in April 2005 by the AWI Potsdam, the Permafrost Institute (Yakutsk), the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (St. Petersburg) and the Geoscience Institute of Bremen University in the expedition COAST.
The expedition «Lena Delta 2005» took place from July to September in cooperation between the Institute of Soil Science (Hamburg University), the Permafrost Institute in Yakutsk, the Lena Delta Reserve, the Geological Faculty of Moscow State University, the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute and the State University of St. Petersburg. A group led by D. Wagner and E.-M. Pfeiffer pursued the long-term measurements of energy, water balance and greenhouse gas emissions in tundra soils on Samoylov Island including eddy-covariance instruments, closed chamber gas flux measurements and gas chromatography. Additionally, a main focus of this group was to document the relationship between the carbon budget and the structure and function of microbial live communities in permafrost soils. A second group investigated permafrost sequences in sediment cores and exposures for palaeoenvironmental archives and conducted studies of thermokarst-affected landscapes (M.N. Grigoriev, L. Schirrmeister). Objectives included understanding the Quaternary history of Arga Island, a large sand complex characterized by the presence of numerous oriented lakes, and collection of surface properties and corresponding spectral signatures by field spectrometry. These data sets will be further related to remotely sensed data, to develop automatic analytical methods for arctic periglacial landscape analyses. A further goal was to reconstruct the environmental conditions during the deposition of the first Lena River terrace (mid to late Holocene).
A Russian-German joint project on palaeolimnology in Yakutia is currently in progress at AWI Potsdam (B. Diekmann, U. Herzschuh) with partners from the Ecological Institute, University of Yakutsk (L. Pestryakova) and the Limnological Institute, Russian Academy of Science, St. Petersburg (D. Subetto). During the field campaign in spring 2005, several sediment cores of late Pleistocene to Holocene age were recovered from Lake Billyakh in the Verkhoyansk Mountains. In addition, limnoecological studies were carried out during the summer 2005 in thermokarst lakes in the vicinity of Yakutsk (Central Yakutia) and in lakes in the Momskii region (Northeast Yakutia). Studies on the recent ecology of terrestrial vegetation in Central and Northeast Yakutia were conducted by AWI-Potsdam (F. Kienast) in cooperation with the chair of Geobotany of the Yakutsk State University (P.A. Gogoleva) to better interpret the occurrence of botanical fossils in Quaternary permafrost deposits. Furthermore, recent seeds, fruits, and herbarium material were collected to provide a reference for the identification of plant fossils. Those were primarily associated with steppes and alpine communities, although aquatic, riparian, and wetland vegetation were also included.
Low altitude remote sensing and permafrost hydrological work was carried out in the Northern Foothills of the Brooks Range (Toolik Field Station, Alaska) in August 2005, as part of the continued cooperation between AWI Potsdam and the Water and Environment Research Center, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Following a Bulgarian initiative, the expedition «Livingston 2005» took place on Livingston Island, maritime Antarctica, in early 2005 and included permafrost research. The evolution, ecology and survival of microbial communities were studied by D. Wagner. The main objectives were the genotypic and phenotypic characterization of the microbial communities in time and space, including cultivation-independent methods and the isolation and characterization of keystone organisms from different habitats for studying their physiology, adaptation strategies, and survival in extreme environments. Sedimentary permafrost was surveyed on Hurd Peninsula in the vicinity of the Bulgarian base (St. Kliment Okhridski). The area has been ice-free only for some decades. Ground penetrating radar (GPR) and sedimentologic verification were used by G. Schwamborn for profiling the transition from unfrozen to frozen ground. Permafrost generally occurs at altitudes higher than 30 m asl.
Studies on permafrost distribution, sensitivity and significance in the Turtmann Valley (Valais, Switzerland) are continued by the group of R. Dikau (University of Bonn). Within the DFG Research Training Group «Landform - a structured and variable boundary layer» (Graduiertenkolleg 437), two Ph.D. theses were presented in 2005 (see: http://hss.ulb.uni-bonn.de/diss_online): one by I. Roer entitled «Rockglacier kinematics in a high mountain geosystem» and the other one by M. Nyenhuis dealing with permafrost distribution mapping and modelling in connection to sediment budget aspects. J.-C. Otto is continuing his investigations on sediment storage quantification and visualization in the periglacial zone of the Turtmann Valley. M. Krautblatter started his thesis entitled «Changes in permafrost distribution in alpine rock walls and their implications for mass movements and sediment budgets». I. Roer started to compile in collaboration with colleagues from Switzerland (A. Kääb, R. Delaloye, C. Lambiel), France (X. Bodin, E. Thibert), Austria (M. Avian, V. Kaufmann) and Germany (B. Damm, M. Langer), an inventory of European Alps rock glaciers, which show increased surface velocities.
The Department of Physical Geography, University of Würzburg (C. Kneisel) is assessing changes in active layer and permafrost thickness by geoelectrical techniques in the Swiss Alps. Geoelectrical and temperature monitoring continues at a discontinuous and a sporadic permafrost site in the Upper Engadin. Geophysical and geomorphological permafrost investigations in a subarctic alpine environment in northern Sweden also continued.
Investigation of permafrost distribution and characteristics in the Vernagt- and Guslarferner area (Ötztal, Austria) started in collaboration with the Commission for Glaciology of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Munich (L. Braun).
In collaboration with T. Saemundsson (Natural Research Centre of Northwestern Iceland, Saudårkrokur), investigation of mountain permafrost occurrences and characteristics began at different sites in Iceland.
At the Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research, University of Karlsruhe, Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe (C. Hauck), geophysical monitoring approaches (using electrical resistivity tomography and refraction seismic tomography) are developed to detect climate induced permafrost thaw in high mountain areas. By combining repeated electrical and seismic measurements, changes in ground ice content can be detected. Field studies are conducted at various permafrost sites in the Swiss Alps in collaboration with the Universities of Würzburg, Jena, Bonn, Giessen and Zürich. In the future, the geophysical monitoring approach will be tested and implemented within the Permafrost Monitoring of Switzerland (PERMOS) programme.
The group of L. King (University of Giessen) finished the DFG-sponsored project «Periglazial Mattertal», which investigated the influence of surface types typical for high mountain environments on the ground thermal regime. Major outcome was the prominent role of cover layers consisting of coarse material. Turbulent air fluxes in the block layer through mainly free convection could be identified as the most important single process, which caused a surface offset in a range of -2 to -3.5° C at instrumented test sites (S. Philippi, T. Herz). The consideration of this effect in an empirical-statistical model led to a further improvement in the estimation of permafrost distribution for the test areas Zermatt-Gornergrat and Grächen- Seetalhorn (R. Hof ).
J. Völkel, M. Leopold and T. Raab from the group Landscape Ecology and Soil Science (University of Regensburg) were invited by D. Dethier (Williams College at Williamstown, Massachusetts, U.S.A.) together with N. Caine (University of Colorado at Boulder, U.S.A.), to do field studies in the Rocky Mountains Front Ranges in Colorado. While staying at the Mountain Research Station of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) in July 2005, the group collected subsurface data using ground penetrating radar and seismic methods. The study areas are located at Niwot Ridge, which is the long-term monitoring site of INSTAAR. All areas are above 3300 m and offer climatic conditions prone to permafrost occurrence. Field work concentrated on patchy permafrost of a lobe on top of Niwot Ridge. Rock glaciers were studied at Green Lake and Valley 4th of July, with more than 1.5 km of GPR-lines and several Refraction Seismic lines.
A mountain permafrost workshop took place in the Black Forest, October 15-16, 2005, coordinated by C. Kneisel, C. Hauck and I. Roer. Scientists from the universities of Bonn, Giessen, Karlsruhe, Würzburg and Graz reported on their actual research activities and agreed on joint field work in summer 2006. Direct enquiries to: C. Hauck (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thomas Herz and Lorenz King (email@example.com)