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Posted December 5 2011

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Climate Change

Integrative Biology Prof Makes Headlines

Guelph - University of Guelph integrative biology professor Merritt Turetsky is a contributing author of an op-ed article in the current issue of Nature. The Vancouver Sun also wrote an article about the op-ed and the issues it raises.

Turetsky, who holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair, is the only Canadian scientist among the authors of the Nature article. The op-ed discusses experts’ belief that climate-warming gases could enter the atmosphere from melting permafrost — which covers almost half of Canada — more quickly than models currently suggest.

The article discusses results of a survey of 40 international scientists, including Turetsky. They make up the Permafrost Carbon Network, with researchers from Siberia to Australia. Turetsky is one of six scientists who sit on the group's steering committee.

They estimate that, at current rates, permafrost thaw will release as much carbon as deforestation.

The authors call for more data collection and more sophisticated modelling. They also call for societal risks to be outlined in order to reduce fossil fuel use and deforestation emissions.

Turetsky studies effects of past and current climatic changes on plant trait diversification. Her U of G research lab is leading activities to determine how much permafrost carbon will likely be released as carbon dioxide versus methane. "Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, so if the release of methane is large, this will have important implications for climate warming," she says.

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