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The activities of the Finnish permafrost community are going on both in Eurasia and Greenland. The research project “Global change impacts on sub-arctic palsa mires and greenhouse gas feedbacks to the climate system: PALSALARM” ended in year 2010. PALSALARM was conducted during 2007-2010 and received funding through the Nordic Ministers' Cooperation Programme for the Arctic. The project was carried out by the Finnish Environment Institute (S. Fronzek and T.R. Carter) and the Universities of Copenhagen, Lund and Helsinki (M. Luoto). This project brought together research groups from four institutions in the Nordic region who have hitherto worked largely independently on different aspects of palsa mires. The central aim of the study was to estimate future changes in the distribution of palsa mires in Fennoscandia, and the implications of these changes for greenhouse gas budgets and nature conservation. The project had four specific objectives:

  1. to map the current distribution of palsa mires
  2. to model future changes in palsa mire distribution due to projected climate warming
  3. to estimate future changes in the CH4 and CO2 budgets of palsa mires
  4. to assess the ecosystem implications of palsa mire degradation and investigate possible conservation measures.

The results of the project provide useful information for the research community on the implications of climate change for permafrost, for ecosystems and for greenhouse gas budgets. They will naturally feed into international assessments such as IPCC, ACIA and IPY. The results may also offer an early indicator of rapid and potentially irreversible impacts of climate change in highly valued environments, which might be of interest and concern to policy makers in the Nordic region and beyond. The project published more than 20 international scientific articles, e.g. papers in journals Geophysical Research Letters, Global Change Biology, Permafrost and Periglacial Processes and Climate Research.

Finnish Environment Institute organized 14 October 2010 a scientific palsa mire workshop in Helsinki, Finland. The symposium was structured in three themes:

  • Theme 1: Spatial distribution and current status of palsa mires in Finland
  • Theme 2: Global change impacts on palsa mires
  • Theme 3: Monitoring and remote sensing of palsa mires

The Top-level Research Initiative (TRI) is the largest joint Nordic research and innovation initiative to date. The initiative aims to involve the very best agencies and institutions in the Nordic region, and promote research and innovation of the highest level, in order to make a Nordic contribution towards solving the global climate crisis. The initiative comprises six sub-programmes, two of which will focus on climate change research. Nordic research collaboration is expected to contribute to responding to challenges in the management of climate change in northern regions. Finnish research teams are strongly represented in the new Nordic Centres of Excellence and research projects of the Top-level Research Initiative launched by the Nordic prime ministers. The Finnish teams studying permafrost in the project “Impacts of a changing cryosphere - depiciting ecosystem-climate feedbacks from permafrost, snow and ice” (DEFROST)” are headed by Pertti Martikainen (University of Eastern Finland) and Timo Vesala (University of Helsinki).

Pertti Martikainen, Maija Repo, Christina Biasi (University of Eastern Finland) and Matti Seppälä have investigated nitrous oxide emissions on subarctic palsa mires in northern Finland. John Woodward (University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) and Matti Seppälä continued studies on palsa mires, particularly surface laser scanning of palsa mires in subarctic Finland.

In northern Finland, field work for Nordic project ‘Permafrost observatory in the Nordic Arctic: sensitivity and feedback mechanisms of thawing permafrost’ (2009–10) (Finnish participant J. Hjort from the Department of Geography, University of Helsinki and University of Oulu) was conducted in Vaisjeaggi palsa mire close to the Kevo research station. The main objectives of this project are to establish a permafrost monitoring network based on existing Nordic research stations and key research sites for assessing the effects of climate change on the permafrost environment and secondly to provide comparable data and new insight from these sites on the sensitivity and feedback mechanisms of thawing permafrost.

The project ‘Spatial Fmodelling of periglacial processes under environmental change’ (2008–2010) (J. Hjort and M. Luoto and M. Marmion (University of Oulu and University of Helsinki) continued. This project has focused on spatial modelling of periglacial processed based on remote sensing and GIS data. Additionally, Hjort and Luoto have investigated interaction of periglacial processes and ecologic features across altitudinal zones in subarctic landscapes.

Geological Survey of Finland (Timo Ruskeeniemi) investigated recharge of subglacial meltwaters into bedrock within the international Greenland Analogue Project (GAP) initiated by the Finnish (Posiva) and Swedish (SKB) nuclear waste management companies in collaboration with the NWMO from Canada. So far two bedrock boreholes have been drilled into the study area in western Greenland. Moreover, Geological Survey of Finland (P. Lintinen, H. Vanhala, J. Jokinen) and Mining Geological Company MIREKO continued co-operation in a field of geophysical characterisation of permafrost and talik structures in Northern part of Komi Republic and Nenets Autonomous Region.

Miska Luoto (miska.luoto@helsinki.fi)