The studies of periglacial geomorphology focusing on traces from the terminal periods of the last glaciation was for a long period a main subject in Sweden. This research which studied fossil traces of permafrost and ground ice, (mainly ice wedges in south Sweden) has more or less “stopped” even though the subject still attain some interest by sedimentologist now also in northern regions of Sweden. Early the interest was focused to the palsas of the subarctic peatbogs and their distribution, localisation in the terrain, morphology and genetics. The first main study of palsas (and Swedish permafrost) in a climatic context appeared in 1977 (Richard Åhman).

The palsas of Sweden are basically found at the edge of the distribution area of permafrost (in the sporadic permafrost zone) mainly at elevations between 500 and 700 m. a. s. l. These areas and the palsas are found very sensitive to changes in climate. For Sweden, palsas are recently detailed mapped in the EU report ‚ Kartering av Sveriges palsmyrar‘;

The main input from Sweden for the reporting period is the new Nordic Permafrost map and Data. The work has been performed by a Nordic working group coordinated by Kjersti Gisnäs ( from Norway. This will be reported in detail separately.
Sweden has permafrost only in the northernmost parts – at lower elevations in peatbogs and at elevations from 700 in the northernmost mountains. In the southernmost part of the mountains remnants of permafrost are mainly found above 1000 m.a.s.l. There is a long history of research on the stability of permafrost etc. regarding the palsas in the subarctic peatbogs. The permafrost in palsas has been studied from geomorphological, ecological and climatological aspects since the early 1900. All major Universities has been active in these studies but during the last decades Lund, Stockholm and Uppsala Universities have been the most active. In cooperation with other Nordic and international departments a lot of comparative field studies has been launched in mainly the Nordic countries, Greenland, Svalbard, Russia, Canada and the USA. A clear and natural change from process orientated geomorphological to ecological, climatological and climate change aspects of permafrost research questions has been seen. Very early it was observed that the “borderline” very fragile permafrost in Sweden started to react upon environmental changes caused by the climatic change.
Palsa mires constitute a so called priority habitat in the Habitats Directive of the EU. This means that they are considered to be one of the most threatened habitat types within the EU. Every six years, Sweden have to report to the EU on the conservation status of palsa mires. The reporting shall include distribution, area, quality, prospects and an overall assessment. The previous reporting, in 2007, was based on a vegetation map which was produced in the 1980s. This map only shows symbols of palsas in mire vegetation areas. The symbols accordingly only showed cartographically where palsas were found. The map was therefore not suitable for area estimates. Because it is 25 years since the vegetation map was made and the climate has changed in a “negative way” for palsa mires, the need for a new mapping of palsa mires emerged. Commissioned by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, a mapping of palsa mires in Sweden was made in 2013. The mapping was performed by aerial photo interpretation in a grid of squares (100 m x 100 m). In each square, the percentage of palsas and water related to palsas was specified. A total of about 250 000 squares were mapped. 12 960 of these squares contain palsas. The total palsa area is 1977,30 hectares. 99,9 % of the Swedish palsa area is situated in the County of Norrbotten and the remaining 0,1 % in the County of Västerbotten. 47 % of the palsa area is situated within protected areas, e.g. national parks, nature reserves and Natura 2000 sites. Vissátvuopmi, the largest contiguous palsa region in Sweden, containing 13,8 % of its palsa area, is not protected. Ongoing climate change with higher temperature and increased precipitation means that palsa mires generally develop in a negative direction. However, some areas with local conditions favouring palsa growth have also been found during the mapping.
The reporting to the EU 2013 on palsa mires, according to Article 17 of the Habitats Directive, was based on results of this mapping. These results provide an excellent basis for continued monitoring of palsa mires, in particular as regards the development of their conservation status. In the report a methodology for bio-geographical follow up of palsa mires is proposed. It can be used both for reporting to the EU and for monitoring and evaluation of the national environmental objective “Thriving wetlands”;

Stockholm University

At Stockholm University, Department of Physical Geography, monitoring of ground temperatures have continued at Tarfala Research Station (PACE12, 100 m depth, 1550 m a.s.l.) and in Tavvavuoma (<6 m depth, 550 m a.s.l.). In Tavvavuoma, a project funded by the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (2015-2018) will allow continued permafrost monitoring as well as projections of hydrological responses and future permafrost-carbon feedbacks from subarctic peat plateau ecosystems under future warmer scenarios. Within the framework of the ESF CryoCarb (2010-2014), the EU FP7 PAGE21 (2011-2015), the Nordforsk DEFROST (2010-2016) and the JPI COUP (2015-2017) projects, we have updated the current estimate of the northern circumpolar permafrost region soil organic carbon (SOC) pool. We have also carried out detailed SOC inventories in field sites across the permafrost region (Canada, Greenland, Svalbard, Sweden and Russia) in order to further improve the estimates of the permafrost SOC pool and, through simple geochemical indicators, to assess its potential decomposability upon thaw. Furthermore, this information provides important benchmarking for the improvement of Earth System Models (ESMs) developed by other partners in these consortia. We are currently also assessing the northern permafrost region extent and SOC pool at the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (French-Swedish cooperation program, 2013-2016). A new Swedish Research Council (VR) project (2015-2017) will investigate the role of permafrost soils in ESMs, with a special emphasis on surface organic soil layers and cryoturbation processes. An ongoing project with the Geological Survey of Sweden (2014-2016) involves model development and analysis of permafrost change, where a particular focus is on improving the understanding of coupled effects between permafrost and heat fluxes with hydrological and hydrogeological flows and its impact on carbon transport. The modelling efforts make use of available field data including sites in Sweden, Greenland and Svalbard.

The Trace Gas Biogeochemistry (TGB) Laboratory at the Department of Geological Sciences of Stockholm University focuses on how the changing Arctic impacts low molecular weight carbon gas emissions. The VR and the Nordforsk DEFROST projects have supported work on terrestrial organic matter and emissions of carbon trace gases from Arctic surface waters as determined by isotopes and micrometeorology. The Lab work on role of lakes and ponds Arctic carbon is placed into a global context within the process modelling framework of the US NSF Macrosystems project and the EU GHG-Lake program. The main research site has been the Stordalen Mire where an automated methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) chamber flux station across a thawing permafrost gradient was first established in 2003, with the support from the STINT foundation and VR. The TGB has played a role in the establishment of the Stordalen Mire as an ecosystem site in the VR supported Integrated Carbon Observation Network (ICOS-SE), an EU continental wide effort to monitor greenhouse gases. Most recently, with the support of the US DOE and VR, we have been able to obtain the first complete genomic sequence of an archeon extracted from peat that has led to the description of Candidatus ‘Methanoflorens stordalenmirensis’ gen. nov., sp. nov. as the first representative of a new family of methanogens. TGB also participated in the SWERUS-C3 Arctic Ocean crossing in 2014 by making continuous, high precision measurements of ambient CH4 and CO2 and the isotopologues of CH4. The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat supported the deployment of the technology for the Petermann Cruise of the I/B Oden in 2015. This allowed us to develop a circum-Greenland dataset that will be used with observations of land based stations to investigate the continental scale flow of greenhouse gases off North America. As part of that effort, there is now a French Swedish project to use high frequency, high precision isotope measurements to test inversion models of Arctic methane fluxes.

Lund University

The research group from Lund University has carried out active layer monitoring in the Abisko area measuring the active layer at initially ten mires at the end of September. This project started measuring the active layer depths in 1978 at 10 sites in a 150km east west transect by the Dep. of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Sciences, Lund. For the 37th year in a row now, the research group from Lund University has carried out this active layer monitoring programme. The correlations between the warmer summer temperatures and the depths of the active layer is evident and permafrost has completely disappeared from 4 of the ten mires. The last summer was very warm and especially in the degraded peat plateaus the warm summer was directly reflected in a thicker active layer. The active layer data is submitted to the CALM database. In addition, ground temperatures from five boreholes have been downloaded and submitted to the GTN-P database. A snow manipulation experiment has been running for 9 years now in the same areas. In 2010, PAR sensors were added to the monitoring and data from these measurements have now been compiled and published in Bosiö, J., C. Stiegler, M. Johansson, H.N. Mbufong and T.R. Christensen 2014. Increased photosynthesis compensates for shorter growing season in subarctic tundra - eight years of snow accumulation manipulations. Climatic Change 127 (2): 321-334. DOI 10.1007/s10584-014-1247-4. Results showed higher PAR absorption, together with almost 35 % higher light use efficiency, in treated plots (with added snow) compared to untreated plots. Estimations of GPP suggested that the loss in early season photosynthesis, due to the shortening of the growing season in the treatment plots, was well compensated for by the increased absorption of PAR and higher light use efficiency throughout the whole growing seasons, most likely due to increased soil moisture and nutrients together with a shift in vegetation composition associated with the accelerated permafrost thaw in the treated plots. In addition to the active layer measurements ground temperatures from three boreholes is and submitted to the GTN-P database.
Dep. of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Sciences from Lund University has carried out two PhD courses with international students in the Kapp Linne’ area on Svalbard in 2012 and 2015 in order to maintain the geomorphological and ecological studies within this area that started in 1972. The active layer monitoring in this area that started with initially 20 CALM sites in 1972 measuring the active layer at various material and levels has been reduced to one site (AL3) which has been maintained with only a minor gap in the series. For the 43rd year in a row now, the research group from Lund University has carried out this active layer monitoring programme also at Kapp Linne’, Svalbard. The correlations between the warmer summer temperatures and the depths of the active layer is evident also here (Fig 1).


Figure 1. Depth of the active layer compared with the summer temperature at a bog site (AL3) near Kapp Linne’ Svalbard, 1972-2015.

The Dep. of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Sciences participated in the following projects that deal partly with permafrost or problems in permafrost environments;

AMAP Prof. Torben Christenson has been active in the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, which is one of six Working Groups of the Arctic Council. AMAP‘s work is directed by the Ministers of the Arctic Council and their Senior Arctic Officials, who have requested AMAP to support international processes that work to reduce the global threats from contaminants and climate change. These include the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNEP‘s Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and Minimata Convention on mercury, and the United Nation‘s Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE) Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. Since its establishment in 1991, AMAP has produced a series of high quality reports and related communication products that detail the status of the Arctic with respect to climate and pollution issues and that include policy-relevant science-based advice to the Arctic Council and governments.

DEFROST (Impact of a changing cryosphere - Depicting ecosystem-climate feedbacks from permafrost, snow and ice) is to understand how climate change induced changes in the cryosphere influence the ecosystem/geosphere processes which directly affect climate. We will focus on key terrestrial, lacustrine and marine cryospheric components that have the potential for giving rise to substantial changes in climate feedback mechanisms both in terms of surface-atmosphere energy exchange and exchanges of greenhouse gases. DEFROST seeks to bridge existing gaps between climate modelling, cryospheric science, and Arctic

ICOS - Integrated Carbon Observation System - is a European research infrastructure to quantify and understand the greenhouse gas balance of the European continent and of adjacent regions. ICOS Sweden is the Swedish contribution to this European effort and is a cooperation of several research institutes. ICOS Sweden has their head office Lund.

ICOS Carbon Portal offers access to research data from ICOS scientists all over Europe, as well as easily accessible and understandable science and education products. All measurement data available in the portal is quality controlled through the three thematic centres, Ecosystem, Atmospheric and Ocean Thematic Centres and a Central Analytical laboratory.

LPJ-GUESS is a process-based dynamic vegetation-terrestrial ecosystem model designed for regional or global studies. Models of this kind are commonly known as dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs). Given data on regional climate conditions and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, it can predict structural, compositional and functional properties of the native ecosystems of major climate zones of the Earth.

LUCCI is a research centre at Lund University devoted to studies of the carbon cycle and how it interacts with the climate system. The centre involves about 120 researchers from four Lund university departments: Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Geology, Biology and Physics.


Figure 2. Students from the Dep. of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Sciences during the year 2015 PhD course in the Kapp Linne’ area on Svalbard. Here investigating new land surfaces and its colonisation of vegetation after the retreat of the glacial cover in the inner Trygghamna fjord. (photo J. Åkerman)

Gothenburg University

The Latnjajaure catchment in northernmost Swedish Lapland, spanning from mid to high alpine (950-1500 m a.s.l.) is situated in an area of marginal and patchy permafrost. The area has undergone drastic changes during the last 25 years. Most prominently, an area of tussock tundra at the outlet of the lake faced final permafrost thaw in between 1992 and 2002; the plant community was mapped in detail in 1995 (before) and 2012 (after final thaw), with drastic changes on hydrology (desiccation) and plant community change (Molau 2010). At present, the remaining permafrost in the Latnjajaure catchment is “dry permafrost” in bedrock and moraines from above 1300 m a.s.l. As a proxy for dry permafrost degradation we monitor shallow lakes on moraines at various altitudes since 2011. A lake at 1000 m a.s.l. is drained since about 2010 (Callaghan et al., 2013; Cramer et al. 2014). At higher altitudes, a small lake was drained in 2013 at 1250 m alt. In the area of remaining permafrost, a shallow lake at 1350 m on Mt Latnjatjårro was provided with permanent metal shore-line stakes in 2013; this lake still shows no signs of change after the 2015 season (Molau, unpubl.).

Swedish Polar Research Secretariat

The Secretariat has not specifically reported to the Swedish IPA in time for the deadline but it is important that this government agency, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat that is mandated to coordinate and promote Swedish polar research is noted in this Swedish report to the IPA. The agency’s primary mission is to organise and support research expeditions to the polar regions and manage research infrastructure. The Secretariat also helps to create favourable conditions for polar research that does not involve fieldwork.
An important fact to note for permafrost researchers is that the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat has taken over the running of the Abisko Scientific Research Station. This is a unique, modern and comprehensive station situated about 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden (68º21’N, 18º49’E) which most permafrost researchers know and have used for many decades. For more information, please contact

Report prepared by Jonas Åkerman (