Mackenzie Mountains, Northwest Territories, Canada — This remote and rugged range, part of the largest mountain wilderness in North America, is at the center of a global calamity in the making. Climate change is thawing the world's permafrost, which locks away at least 20 percent of the world's terrestrial carbon in the form of peat. When these peatlands thaw, they release carbon dioxide and methane, greenhouse gases that accelerate the warming trend—which in turn speeds the thawing and the release of more gases in a potentially catastrophic cycle.
These changes stand to alter the ecology of arctic plants and animals, as well as those in ecosystems around the world. Dr. Peter Kershaw has been conducting research here since the 1970s. You can help monitor ecosystem responses to global warming in this dramatic alpine environment—and maybe help provide answers to the many questions surrounding the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.
Meet the Scientists
Dr. Peter Kershaw
University of Alberta
Dr. Kershaw is a biogeographer, disturbance ecologist and periglacial geomorphologist specializing in the impacts of anthropogenic disturbances (e.g. burrow pits, vehicle tracks, and oil spills) and fire on tundra and forest ecosystems in addition to permafrost landforms’ responses to climate change. He has worked and taught in Churchill for more than 15 years, although his main field sites have been in the western Arctic along the Mackenzie River valley and in the Mackenzie Mountains where he has conducted research since the early 1970s. He has published papers on vegetation responses to anthropogenic and natural disturbances as well as environmental parameters (snowpack, temperature, permafrost) which largely determine the timing and type of recovery of these communities.