Profile

Current climate and environmental changes are particularly dramatic in Earth’s permafrost regions. Observed Arctic warming also results in warming and thawing of permafrost in many regions and thus in the change of an important component of Arctic ecosystems. At the same time these changes cause feedbacks to the biosphere, the atmosphere, and the hydrosphere that can have regional and global impacts well beyond the permafrost regions and may thus directly affect our lives in central Europe.
The Periglacial Research Section therefore focuses its efforts on:

the observation and quantification of current periglacial processes and environmental changes and their causes in order to assess the modern state of permafrost and its future transformation.

Methods

  • Continuous measurements of hydroclimatic data  and permafrost temperatures
  •  Study of water and energy balances of typical permafrost landscapes
  • Large-scale and high-resolution remote sensing of landscape changes caused by permafrostdegradation
  • Numerical modelling of terrestrial and subaquatic permafrost characteristics and landscape dynamics under past, current, and future environmental conditions
  •  The study of permafrost characteristics using geophysical and field analytical methods
  • Quantification of sediment and geochemical fluxes due to Arctic streams and from coastal erosion
  •  Biogeochemical investigation of permafrost soils and deposits
  • Formation and release of the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide through microbial and energetic processes in permafrost soils and periglacial landforms resulting from permafrost thaw


the reconstruction of periglacial landscape dynamics of the last 200,000 years, delivering important information on the temporal variability of environmental and climatic change, ecosystem dynamics, and the carbon cycle.

Methods

  • Geological, cryo-stratigraphical, and paleoecological studies of permafrost and lake sediment cores as well as of natural exposures along sea coasts, river banks, and lake shores
  • Sedimentological, paleontological, biogeochemical, and isotopic analyses
  • Development of models to reconstruct past environments and dynamics of permafrost landscapes


Our research provides an outlook on future developments within the 23 million square kilometer large terrestrial permafrost region on the northern hemisphere as well as within the extensive regions with submarine permafrost under shallow Arctic shelf seas.

Our section, now active in researching periglacial landscapes since 1992, is focusing on Arctic and subarctic regions in Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Spitsbergen. Since 1998 we conduct regular geoscientific and ecological studies during the Russian-German ‘LENA’ field expeditions at the research station Samoylov Island in the Lena River Delta of Northeast Siberia. These studies include long-term observations of permafrost state, energy and water balances, and trace gas fluxes. Beyond that, the Samoylov research station provides logistical support for numerous ship-based as well as land-based expeditions in the wider Laptev Sea region.