New study reveals permafrost dynamics, climate impacts in alpine grasslands

Chinese researchers have made progress in revealing permafrost dynamics and climate impacts in alpine grasslands on the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, according to the Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources (NIEER) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Wild Tibetan antelopes in Ngari, Xizang Autonomous Region, China, April 21, 2024. /CFP

Wild Tibetan antelopes in Ngari, Xizang Autonomous Region, China, April 21, 2024. /CFP

This study, led by NIEER researcher Wu Qingbai, provides a new perspective for understanding the response mechanisms of different types of alpine grassland ecosystems.

Permafrost and alpine grasslands interact and evolve jointly, and permafrost temperature serves as an important indicator for understanding these interactions and changes. The researchers investigated the permafrost under alpine meadows, alpine steppes, alpine desert grasslands and barren lands to uncover their relationships with climate change. They also identified the climate factors influencing their changes via time-frequency domain analysis.

In time-frequency domains, different climate factors affect permafrost temperatures at various depths. In the time domain, air temperature has the greatest impact on permafrost temperature at almost every depth, the study results revealed.

The study results further confirmed the protective effect of vegetation on subsurface permafrost, indicating that vegetation cover can effectively slow down the degradation of permafrost.

Among the four alpine grasslands studied, the permafrost beneath alpine meadows emerged as the most sensitive to climate change, showing distinct periodic fluctuation intensity compared to the other three grassland types, according to the study.

The results of the study have been published in the journal “CATENA.” 

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency