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Federal Research Center 
"Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

 Федеральный исследовательский центр «Красноярский научный центр Сибирского отделения Российской академии наук»

Federal Research Center 
"Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

Large project of SB RAS on greenhouse gases in Siberia

28 October 2021 г.

Крупный проект СО РАН по парниковым газам Сибири
Considering the importance of the problem of climate change and decarbonization of the economy in the current political, scientific and educational agenda, the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences is intensively discussing projects on carbon.

Andrey Georgievich Degermendzhi, Director of the Institute of Biophysics of the Federal Research Center "KSC SB RAS", Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, First Deputy Chairman of the Scientific Council of SB RAS on the problems of ecology in Siberia and the Eastern Arctic on the pages of "Science in Siberia" discusses this acute subject:

“A number of councils dealing with ecology and environmental quality problems have already been created in SB RAS. This means that it is advisable to propose a sort of general scheme which will set a framework for individual projects under discussion. At present, two major goals for the Siberian Branch in the field of climate and greenhouse gases can be formulated: in the field of ecology it concerns the studies of the balance of greenhouse gases (GHG), especially carbon, methane and water in the atmosphere over Siberia; and in the field of economics it is necessary to reveal how the Siberian economy should be coordinated with the results obtained on this balance. The key question is here: is it worth changing the economy, transferring it to a carbon-free one, if there is enough reserve for greenhouse gas absorption in Siberia? If the absorption reserve is not enough, the question arises: how should the economy be changed, taking into account the ecological footprint of economic changes?
It is worth noting that the final result of fulfilling these goals is the management task, namely, the removal of carbon from the cycle at various levels (terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems, industry etc.).

Many institutes are now focusing their efforts on Siberian ecosystems. Therefore, we will focus mainly on this block. It should be noted that ideally, all the discussed and further implemented projects should pass through international agreements. This applies to methods, models, and approaches, and not only for Siberia, but for Russia as a whole. The efforts of the Siberian Branch and even in the entire Russian Academy of Sciences are not enough for this. Some common effort should be implemented here, and most likely at the government level.

In my opinion, in the block "Ecosystems of Siberia" it is necessary to highlight several main areas with qualified coordinators. In the current context, the global issue of climate and carbon cycle is not subject where small, independent topics can contribute to meaningful progress. In the case of the Siberian Branch and climate issues, the role of the main coordinators should be fulfilled by three scientific councils of SB RAS: on the problems of the ecology of Siberia and the Eastern Arctic, on the problems of Lake Baikal, and on the problems of the Paris Agreement on climate.

One of the main areas of research in the block “Ecosystems of Siberia” is the control of the current annual greenhouse gas balance and prospects for a long-term forecast of this balance. At the same time, since the situation is dynamic, the duration of an accurate forecast is unlikely to exceed three to five years, after this period adjustments should be made based on updated data. In this area of research, two important sections are distinguished: monitoring and mathematical models of the greenhouse gas balance.

In the field of monitoring, one can single out such important areas of research as remote sensing (space and aviation) and ground monitoring. For remote monitoring, it is important to develop algorithms for assessing GHG fluxes based on space data, and estimating the total amount of green vegetation in Siberia. Space data can also be used to assess the current production characteristics of Siberian ecosystems. Aviation methods can be viewed as a kind of intermediate link between space and ground methods. In the future, mathematical models will require other data (temperature, humidity, insolation, and others), which can also be estimated remotely.

Ground-based methods are primarily associated with the use of observatories, a prime example of which is the ZOTTO observatory. SB RAS should set the task of duplicating the ZOTTO tower, possibly with modifications. There are doubts that carbon polygons will be able to extrapolate data over large areas, on a landscape basis. With this in mind, it is worth expanding the network of stations created on the basis of the ZOTTO observatory to the whole Siberia. Undoubtedly, these are expensive objects of observation, approaching to megascience establishments, but they have been working for decades and may be in demand in the future in other ecosystem subjects. Their equipment, and instrument base can be changed and supplemented as technology develops and new tasks appear. It is important that data from such high-altitude observatories make it possible to calculate the fluxes of greenhouse gases (absorption, emission, etc.).

Among the ground-based methods, it is worth highlighting the experimental approach. It is necessary to more broadly present the experimental methods (laboratory and field ones) for assessing the respiratory activity of soils and the balance of emissions and absorption of CO2 and methane in ecosystems typical for the region under study. Also, in such experiments, it is possible to estimate the net primary production of ecosystems and many other parameters which are important for assessing the carbon balance, including the ratio of stable carbon isotopes.

The next section is mathematical modeling. One can use both commonly available and your own models here, but this issue requires discussion. Here, much will depend on the required accuracy of the final data on the carbon balance in Siberia. For a rough estimate, some general models will be enough, but taking into account all types of ecosystems and heterogeneities in their structure and distribution over the territory will make the task much more difficult. Much depends on political and international requirements…what is the expected accuracy of forecasting the carbon cycle and ability of ecosystems to absorb or emit greenhouse gases?

Certainly, it is worth talking about the typification of Siberian ecosystems (forest, boggy, smaller classes of forest ecosystems, possibly typification by soil types). In order to create models or to adapt existing ones, and to have complete theoretical understanding, the kinetic characteristics of the processes are required: speed, production, and others. Some of these characteristics can be obtained on the basis of monitoring data, some - from experiments or literature. This means that the planned work in the "Modeling" section must be coordinated both with experiments and observations. A reliable estimate of the annual balance under different conditions is the basis for predicting the interannual long-term dynamics under different scenarios.

Our practice and publications show that mathematical models are functioning quite effectively as compared with independent methods as concerns experimental studies of the GHG balance and data obtained at ground-based observatories-towers. Comparing these data shows that they are consistent. It is necessary to enhance this direction and concentrate our forces here, because this is a guarantee of a good quality result. It should be noted again that these approaches need to be harmonized with international institutions. Otherwise, the reliability of the results may be called into question.

After the coordinated implementation of the stages of monitoring, experiments and modeling, verification of models based on the data of observations and experiments, it will become possible to make predictive calculations by years, territories, and to collect  results throughout Siberia. The comprehensive analysis will take into account the role of forests and wetland ecosystems, as well as carbon sinks through river systems (Ob, Yenisei, Lena). Baikal, as the largest lake system, also falls within the scope of these studies.

If we evaluate the rate of obtaining results, then, perhaps, taking into account the creation of an instrument base based on the observatories-towers, along with the concentration of the efforts, the most optimistic estimate is five years at least.

To summarize, the creation of a large project of SB RAS with the name "Greenhouse gases of Siberia" is certainly ripe. This project should be filled with coordinated projects of scientific institutions of Siberia (academic ones, universities and industries). It is this project that should be presented and actively promoted in the government of the Russian Federation. Only in this way can we make progress on this complex and extremely important subject of research."