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Shrinking tundra, advancing forests: how the Arctic will look by century's end
Date:3/2/2011

p>"The expansion of forest may amplify global warming, because the newly forested areas can reduce the surface reflectivity, thereby further warming the Arctic," Feng said. "The shrinkage of tundra and expansion of forest may also impact the habitat for wildlife and local residents."

Also according to the study:

  • By the end of the century, the annual average surface temperature in Arctic regions is projected to increase by 5.6 to 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

  • The warming, however, is not evenly distributed across the Arctic. The strongest warming in the winter (by 13 degrees Fahrenheit) will occur along the Arctic coast regions, with moderate warming (by 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit) along the North Atlantic rim.

  • The projected redistributions of climate types differ regionally; in northern Europe and Alaska, the warming may cause more rapid expansion of temperate climate types than in other places.

  • Tundra in Alaska and northern Canada would be reduced and replaced by boreal forests and shrubs by 2059. Within another 40 years, the tundra would be restricted to the northern coast and islands of the Arctic Ocean.

  • The melting of snow and ice in Greenland following the warming will reduce the permanent ice cover, giving its territory up to tundra.

"The response of vegetation usually lags changes in climate. The plants don't have legs, so it takes time for plant seed dispersal, germination and establishment of seedlings," Feng said. Still, the shrub density in tundra regions has seen a rapid increase on decadal and shorter time scales, while the boreal forest expansion has seen a much slower response on century time scales.

Also, increasing drought conditions may help offset any potential benefits of warmer temperatures and reduce the overall vegetation growth in the Arctic regions, Feng said.

Non-climate factors human activity, land
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Contact: Song Feng
sfeng2@unl.edu
402-472-6660
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Source:Eurekalert

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