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> Please Ask Questions, We have lots of scientists here
Tom_Crumrine
post Jun 22 2005, 04:33 PM
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First of all I wanted to thank all of you who have asked questions and have been following along daily--you may never know how much I appreciate it when I log onto this site and see that someone has checked it.

I also wanted to encourage everyone to ask any question that pops into their head. I am in unique situation because I have about 40 scientists near me at dinner every night. Many of them asking, "Any questions you need help with from the website?"

I'll be here for a little more than a week so if there is something on your mind send it along.

Thanks!
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post Jun 22 2005, 05:48 PM
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I have a question about what you wrote about Breck's Bowden's research. What is the significance of the hyporheic zone or the area under the bed of a river where water flows within the soil? What matters about it and why are scientists studying it?

Wendy
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Helen_Wiggins
post Jun 22 2005, 06:34 PM
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I have a question that came to mind after seeing your post about the nearby wildfires (and after seeing some smoke in the air here in Fairbanks).

How often does the tundra near Toolik burn? How big are the tundra fires -- are they small, big, depends? And what do the scientists think about the effect of climate change on fire in the tundra? I would think that with a warmer climate, the tundra might become drier -- with maybe more, or bigger, or longer-burning fires?

Helen.
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Tom_Crumrine
post Jun 24 2005, 03:19 AM
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QUOTE(Wendy_Warnick @ Jun 22 2005, 05:48 PM)
I have a question about what you wrote about Breck's Bowden's research. What is the significance of the hyporheic zone or the area under the bed of a river where water flows within the soil? What matters about it and why are scientists studying it?

Wendy
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Wendy,

That's a great question and one that is not easy to answer. The basic way that I understand it is that under rivers there is less permafrost--or that is the permafrost starts deeper because the water insulates the ground. So if we go from the top layer down we have water, unfrozen soil and then eventually the permafrost.

In rivers that freeze to the bottom the middle layer the unfrozen soil freezes at some point during the winter. The idea of a true hyporheic zone is that water flows in the soil under the river. This is important because whatever is in the water can also flow in the soils beneath it. SO the connection between the hyporheic zone and warming is that warming will change the time when the hyporheic zone can begin transporting water.

Or that's how I understand it. I'm working with their lab on Monday so I will talk to them and ask them to clarify.

Thanks for the question,

Tom
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Tom_Crumrine
post Jun 24 2005, 03:44 AM
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QUOTE(Helen_Wiggins @ Jun 22 2005, 06:34 PM)
I have a question that came to mind after seeing your post about the nearby wildfires (and after seeing some smoke in the air here in Fairbanks).

How often does the tundra near Toolik burn? How big are the tundra fires -- are they small, big, depends? And what do the scientists think about the effect of climate change on fire in the tundra? I would think that with a warmer climate, the tundra might become drier -- with maybe more, or bigger, or longer-burning fires?

Helen.
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Helen,

Thanks for the question. Fires in general are regular occurences because they are usually started by lightning. They vary in size from year to year. For example last year--as you know--they were very close and very large near Fairbanks. Tundra fires though are relatively rare.

It is great that you asked this question though because it lead me to find a poster presentation of a paper that just happened to be sitting behind me all this time. Last year there was a tundra fire near Toolik. Donie and a host of other scientists were able to take samples of the burned site and came up with the following conclusions:

1. tundra plants are better adapted to buring than they had hypothesized. since tundra fires are rare it was not expected that the plants would be pre-adapted to fire.
2. Soil moisture is higher in the burned areas possibly due to reduced transpiration in the site.
3. 2 months after the burn the plants were greener and the depth of thaw was larger than in control areas.

What does this possibly mean? Well, let's for a moment combine some of Donie et. al's. other work with the ideas about fires. If Betula begins to grow more as temperatures increase then there is much more fuel for fires. If temperatures are warmer then things will be more dry. If there is more fuel then when lightning strikes fires could burn better and longer.

Another thing that the woman I work with Meredith mentioned is that since fires leave the ground darka and devoid of vegetation then the energy of the sun goes to heating the ground rather than to photosynthesis. If the ground is warmer then the depth of thaw will increase meaning less permafrost.

Thanks for the awesome question,

Tom
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