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Changing permafrost in a warming world and feedbacks to the Earth system

Changing permafrost in a warming world and feedbacks to the Earth system

The permafrost component of the cryosphere is changing dramatically, but the permafrost region is not well monitored and the consequences of change are not well understood. Changing permafrost interacts with ecosystems and climate on various spatial and temporal scales. The feedbacks resulting from these interactions range from local impacts on topography, hydrology, and biology to complex influences on global scale biogeochemical cycling. This review contributes to this focus issue by synthesizing its 28 multidisciplinary studies which provide field evidence, remote sensing observations, and modeling results on various scales. We synthesize study results from a diverse range of permafrost landscapes and ecosystems by reporting key observations and modeling outcomes for permafrost thaw dynamics, identifying feedbacks between permafrost and ecosystem processes, and highlighting biogeochemical feedbacks from permafrost thaw. We complete our synthesis by discussing the progress made, stressing remaining challenges and knowledge gaps, and providing an outlook on future needs and research opportunities in the study of permafrost–ecosystem–climate interactions.

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