WINTER-CZ (Winter Critical Zone dynamics in the High Arctic: measuring carbon fluxes and geo-biological processes at the Bayelva Critical Zone Observatory during winter)

WINTER-CZ is aimed to upgrading the existing CNR research infrastructure for the measurement of CO2 fluxes from the tundra in Ny Ålesund, Svalbard, focussing on the measurement and modelling of CO2emissions from the Arctic soil through the snowpack during winter and how their dynamic is influenced by the environmental conditions. It is funded by the Arctic Research Programme (PRA) INFRA 2021.

The measurements of winter CO2 fluxes are obtained  by a monitoring station located in the Bayelva river basin in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, designed to be covered with snow during the winter season and for measuring the concentration of carbon dioxide in the soil, in the snowpack and in the atmosphere and other ancillary variables. CO2 fluxes are obtained by applying the diffusion law in the snowpack, considered as a porous medium.

Budget assessments of the arctic CO2 fluxes highlight that there is a great imbalance of availability of data throughout the year. The summer period, when the tundra is mostly a carbon sink, is much more studied than the snow-covered non-vegetative period, when the tundra is instead a carbon source. To have a more complete picture of the microbial activity during the winter, of the resulting greenhouse gas emissions and of the complete carbon cycle of the Arctic environment, it is necessary to complement the existing measuring infrastructures with continuous measurements during the snow-covered period of both the environmental variables and the microbial communities in the Arctic soil.

The project is divided into three phases. The first one sees the finalization of the executive design of the scientific station, its testing in Italy and its installation in Svalbard. The second phase focuses on data acquisition and management. The third and final phase sees the use of the acquired data for modelling the fluxes dynamics.

At the end of the project, we expect a more comprehensive picture of the carbon dynamics of tundra environments from a soil and microbial perspective, but also regarding the interactions between the wind and snowpack and its effect on the CO2 fluxes. The data, acquired continuously, will also become part of the new CNR Ny Ålesund Carbon Fluxes Observatory, a novel open-access database that follows the FAIR principles. They will be accessible thought the IGG-CNR website and will also be linked to the archive of SIOS (Svalbard Integrated Observing System), IADC (Italian Arctic Data Centre) and the Next Generation Europe Project  "ITINERIS”.

The project is funded by the Arctic Research Program (PRA) INFRA 2021.

Start date: 2 March 2023

Duration: 24 months

Project Coordinator: Dr. Antonello Provenzale, CNR-IGG (