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Scoping Study Abstract for the
Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE)

formerly known as VuRSAL

Vulnerability and Resiliency of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Landscapes (VuRSAL) - The Role of Interactions between Climate, Permafrost, Hydrology, and Disturbance in Driving Ecosystem Processes Processes

Eric Kasischke, University of Maryland

A one year effort is proposed to carry out a scoping study to define a field experiment
aimed at “Vulnerability and Resiliency of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Landscapes (VuRSAL) -
the Role of Interactions between Climate, Permafrost, Hydrology, and Disturbance in
Driving Ecosystem Processes”. The proposed scoping study will focus on processes
occurring at landscape, regional and global scales in a region experiencing significant
climate change, particularly over the past half century, resulting in dramatic, and in some
cases, rapid changes to landforms and ecosystems of the High Northern Latitudes. The
goals of the scoping study are two-fold: (a) to identify the scientific issues and questions
and underlying rationale related to how interactions between climate, permafrost,
hydrology and disturbance control the vulnerability and resilience of ecosystems found in
arctic and sub-arctic landscapes; and (b) based on (a), develop an overall study design for
a future field experiment that identifies the required observational (e.g., spaceborne,
airborne, and/or supporting in situ observations) and analytical (e.g., models, data, and
information system) infrastructure. The goals of the scoping study will be addressed
through a workshop forum at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks that will be attended
by leading researchers and regional land managers. The objectives of this workshop
would be to: (1) Discuss the current state of the science in terms of vulnerability of arctic
and sub-arctic ecosystems to climate change; (2) Identify the science issues and questions
to be addressed; (3) Identify areas of research with potential for major, significant
scientific advancement; (4) Identify the disciplinary skills needed to conduct studies
needed to carry out the identified areas of research; (5) Define the central, critical role of
NASA remote sensing with respect to addressing the scientific issues; and (6) Make
recommendations for specific interagency, interdisciplinary field studies that would
address key science issues and questions that would involve the use of NASA remote
sensing assets. The outcome of this activity would be a report based on the findings of the
workshop that would present a plan for a NASA led, inter-agency field campaign to
advance understanding of the vulnerability and future response of northern ecosystems to
climate change.