New Dalhousie study says sea-level rise causing permafrost to thaw is threatening ecosystems

By CityNews Halifax Staff

Dalhousie University has released a study which has found thawing permafrost is threatening northern ecosystems.

According to the study “Saltwater Intrusion Intensifies Coastal Permafrost Thaw”, sea-level rise is causing saltwater to move into terrestrial environments and freshwater reservoirs along coastlines around the world.

Julia Guimond is the study's lead author and she told NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show that's causing permafrost along the Arctic coastlines to thaw and retreat.

“The saltwater intrusion driven by sea-level rise causes saltwater to intrude into the unfrozen pour space of permafrost,” she said. “So when saltwater intrudes into those pours, it actually triggers the lateral retreat and thaw of permafrost.”

Guimond said this is a concerning phenomenon.

“Permafrost stabilizes the land in these high latitude systems and also holds a ton of carbon immobile and that really inhibits the carbon from going to the atmosphere,” she said. “With permafrost, you see everything from changing vegetation, changing coastlines through erosion and impacts on communities as well.”

Guimond said little is known about this, adding this knowledge gap limits projections of climate change impacts on coastal Arctic ecosystems and communities.

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