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Greening of the Arctic as trees march north

By Colin Ricketts - 06 Mar 2011 12:10:1 GMT
Greening of the Arctic as trees march north

Forests will spread north into areas of previously bleak tundra and ice cover once thought to be permanent will retreat uncovering new tundra by the end of this century according to climate scientists from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and South Korea.

The researchers, who publish their findings in the journal Climate Dynamics, used historic climate models and more than a century’s worth of observations to extrapolate how the Arcticwill change as the earth warms up.

Song Feng, research assistant professor in UNL's Schoolof Natural Resourcesand the study's lead author, said up to up to half of the Arcticcould become more temperate and as trees spread north the warming effect will increase.

Tundra regions will be reduced by 33 to 44 percent by the end of this century with coniferous and needle-leaf trees moving in.

"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.''

The scientists also predict that by the end of this century the annual average surface temperature in the Arctic regions could increase by 5.6 to 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

Coastal regions will warm most quickly according to the study with European and Alaskan regions getting hotter quickest.

By 2059, if the scientists are right, forests and shrubs will spread into Alaskaand Canadaand by the end of the century tundra will only remain in Arctic Oceanregions.

Greenland’s ice cover will shrink, turning the island over to tundra.

Feng said: ''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.''

Vegetation growth will be hampered however, as droughts increase, humans move in and pests also thrive in warmer climes.

Forests will spread north into areas of previously bleak tundra and ice cover once thought to be permanent will retreat uncovering new tundra by the end of this century according to climate scientists from Universityof Nebraska-Lincolnand South Korea.

The researchers, who publish their findings in the journal Climate Dynamics, used historic climate models and more than a century’s worth of observations to extrapolate how the Arcticwill change as the earth warms up.

Song Feng, research assistant professor in UNL's Schoolof Natural Resourcesand the study's lead author, said up to up to half of the Arcticcould become more temperate and as trees spread north the warming effect will increase.

Tundra regions will be reduced by 33 to 44 percent by the end of this century with coniferous and needle-leaf trees moving in.

''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.''

The scientists also predict that by the end of this century the annual average surface temperature in the Arctic regions could increase by 5.6 to 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

Coastal regions will warm most quickly according to the study with European and Alaskan regions getting hotter quickest.

By 2059, if the scientists are right, forests and shrubs will spread into Alaskaand Canadaand by the end of the century tundra will only remain in Arctic Oceanregions.

Greenland's ice cover will shrink, turning the island over to tundra.

Feng said: ''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.''

Vegetation growth will be hampered however, as droughts increase, humans move in and pests also thrive in warmer climes.