The Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and the Wageningen University are investigating the carbon and water of taiga and tundra ecosystems in eastern Siberia, and in collaboration with the Institute for Biological Problems Cryolithozone of the Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Yakutsk.


Measurements are taken using eddy correlation systems and soil flux chambers in a larch / birch forest near Yakutsk (Spasskaya Pad Field Station) and on a tundra site near Chokhurdakh in the Indigyrka lowlands (Kytalyk Reserve). In 2004, this research embedded in the EU TCOS project (Terrestrial Carbon Observation System) has been extended with flux chamber measurements of methane fluxes and survey of active layer thickness and temperature. The objective is to estimate the annual exchange rates and to determine the sensitivity of the fluxes to environmental factors. The methane flux measurements will also be used in modelling their link with the last glacial climate and past permafrost changes. The first modelling results were published in Quaternary Science Reviews 23 (J. van Huissteden).

Joint research between the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (Jef Vandenberghe), the State Hydrological Institute and the Institute of Limnology at St. Petersburg continued with the support of the Russian-Dutch research cooperation programme. Different methods of relating changes in vegetation and permafrost to climate changes were compared and applied to the post-glacial environments of western and eastern Europe; a related database will be available by internet. Changes in river patterns of northwest Russia that could be expected from potential changes in environmental and climatic conditions were calculated according to methods previously applied for Holocene variability.

In May 2004, the new interdisciplinary research project “The effect of climate change on the pristine peatland ecosystems and (sub)actual carbon balance of the permafrost boundary zone in Sub-arctic Western Siberia (CASUS)” was established between the Utrecht University (W. Bleuten, The Netherlands), the University of Kuopio (Finland), the Ural State University (Russia), the Tomsk State University (Russia) and the Institute of Soil Science and Agro-chemistry (RAS Novosibirsk). CASUS focuses on the annual carbon balance of sub-arctic peatland areas of Western Siberia; initially estimated in three key areas by ground flux measurements in the main mire types and in surface water. The point trace gas fluxes of mires will be validated with measurements of net primary production and recent carbon accumulation. GIS combined with land unit classification using multispectral satellite images will allow the evaluation of area fluxes, which in turn will be compared with the interpretation of hyper-spectral satellite images in terms of carbon gas concentrations in the lower atmosphere. The effects of climate change as predicted by IPCC scenarios on the carbon balance of sub-arctic peatland of Western Siberia will be evaluated. In August, the Siberian partners organized a field expedition for selecting sites in the continuous permafrost zone; extensive methane flux was almost absent. This confirms the hypothesis on the loss of trapped methane in the region of degrading permafrost. The thawing at the top of the permafrost explains the rapid changes in hydrological conditions leading to the appearance and disappearance of lakes, which in turn complicates the interpolation procedures concerning trace gas fluxes over large areas.

A new international website was opened for scientific discussions concerning vegetation-pattern, hydrology, hydrochemistry, microbiology, biogeochemistry (including Carbon and Nutrient cycling) and climate (change) of northern pristine peatland areas (http://www.peatresearch. com). We kindly invite colleagues to join this network by sending an email with their name, logo and link-address to:

Jef Vandenberghe (