University of Oulu

Leppiniemi, O., Karjalainen, O., Aalto, J., Luoto, M., and Hjort, J.: Environmental spaces for palsas and peat plateaus are disappearing at a circumpolar scale, The Cryosphere, 17, 3157–3176,

Environmental spaces for palsas and peat plateaus are disappearing at a circumpolar scale

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Author: Leppiniemi, Oona1; Karjalainen, Olli1; Aalto, Juha2,3;
Organizations: 1Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, 90014, Finland
2Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, 00014, Finland
3Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, 00101, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 8.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Copernicus Publications, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-10-18


Anthropogenic climate change threatens northern permafrost environments. This compromises the existence of permafrost landforms, such as palsas and peat plateaus, which have been assessed to be critically endangered habitats. In this study, we integrated geospatial datasets and statistical methods to model the suitable environments for palsas and peat plateaus across the Northern Hemisphere permafrost region. The models were calibrated using data from years 1950–2000. The effects of climate change on the suitable environments for the landforms were assessed by using low-, moderate-, and high-emissions scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathway climate scenarios: RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5, respectively) for two periods (2041–2060 and 2061–2080). Hotspots for palsa and peat plateau environments occurred in northern Europe, western Siberia, and subarctic Canada. Climate change was predicted to cause an almost complete loss (decrease of 98.2 %) of suitable environmental spaces under the high-emissions scenario by 2061–2080, while under low- and moderate-emissions scenarios the predicted loss was 76.3 % and 89.3 % respectively. Our modeling results are in line with previously published thermokarst data pointing out areas of recent degradation of palsa and peat plateau environments. Our results provide new insights into the distribution of the permafrost landforms in less studied areas such as central and eastern Siberia. In addition, the predictions provide new understanding of the changing geoecological conditions of the circumpolar region with important implications for greenhouse gas emissions.

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Series: Cryosphere
ISSN: 1994-0416
ISSN-E: 1994-0424
ISSN-L: 1994-0416
Volume: 17
Issue: 8
Pages: 3157 - 3176
DOI: 10.5194/tc-17-3157-2023
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
Funding: This research has been supported by the Academy of Finland (grant nos. 315519, 337552, and 342890).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 315519
Detailed Information: 315519 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.