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Trent School of the Environment Prof Lifts Off with NASA

Dr. Peter Lafleur’s research on Canada’s changing tundra to be included in NASA’s ABoVE project


When NASA needed a researcher who is studying the impact of global warming on Canada’s North, they came to Trent University’s Dr. Peter Lafleur. The professor with Trent’s School of the Environment and his research team are helping NASA in their Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) study.

This 10-year research program is currently investigating the impacts of environmental change on both Arctic and Boreal terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems.  The goal of ABoVE is to use its findings to understand the processes and interactions that impact the environmental vulnerability of these ecosystems, while also studying how people from within this region are responding to an ever-changing environment.

To study this vast region, NASA has teamed up with a number of existing research projects, including Professor Lafleur’s research, forming an international team of researchers to undertake the study of the changing landscape of Arctic and Boreal ecosystems.

Professor Lafleur and his team have been studying the changing vegetation and the exchanges of carbon dioxide from the tundra surrounding the Daring Lake Tundra Ecology Research Station in the Northwest Territories for many years. As a result, Prof. Lafleur was approached by NASA researchers to join the ABoVE project to provide a closer look at the impact of a changing climate on vegetation and the carbon exchange on the tundra.

“NASA is observing from the air, doing flying missions and using satellites over Alaska and northwestern Canada measure everything and anything from how much vegetation is in the area to moisture levels in the soil,” said Prof. Lafleur. “Our research measures it on the ground.”

Since 2004, Prof. Lafleur and his team have travelled to the Daring Lake site to study tundra vegetation-atmosphere interactions. Over their time in the North, he explained that there has been a significant increase in the amount of shrubs that are growing on the tundra. With these shrubs come changes in the ecosystem, including potential shifts in the amount of carbon dioxide being exchanged with the atmosphere.

“We are particularly looking to see if more is being released than is taken up each year,” explained Prof. Lafleur.

Often joining Prof. Lafleur on these trips are Trent students who have resided at the Daring Lake Station for up to a month or two of their summer to get hands-on experience collecting data for this ongoing project.

Now, the research and data collected is being shared with NASA to get a better understanding of the changing environment of the North. 

Posted on Thursday, September 14, 2017.

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