Trees Thrive In Arctic Tundra
Even though deforestation is slowly chipping away at our planet's green reserves, it looks like certain trees may be thriving in an unlikely region: the Arctic tundra. Despite increasing temperatures and a rapidly changing climate, a new study shows that forests are "popping up" in this seemingly harsh region.
The study looked at satellite data and surveyed local reindeer herders. What they found was that between 8 and 15 percent of the territory willow and alder shrubs had grown over 6.5 feet tall over the past 30 to 40 years.
Like Us on Facebook
"The speed and magnitude of the observed change is far greater than we expected," said co-author Professor Bruce Forbes of the Arctic Center, University of Lapland.
"Previously people had thought that the tundra would be colonized by trees from the boreal forest to the south as the Arctic climate warms, a process that could potentially take centuries. But what we've found is that the shrubs that are already there are transforming into trees in just a few decades," said lead author Dr. Marc Macias-Fauria from Oxford University.
Botanists have previously found out that Arctic plant species were extremely adaptive in response to climate change.
The study implies that these forests could further increase the rate of the rising temperature. The dark foliage from the trees will absorb more sunlight rather than allowing the white tundra to reflect it. This in turn could increase temperatures in the Arctic by as much as 1 to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
"The 19.8% average increase in aboveground [Arctic tundra] biomass has major implications for Arctic tundra ecosystems, including their hydrology, permafrost and wildlife, and for how humans exploit Arctic landscapes. The taller and denser vegetation uses up more carbon from the atmosphere, changes the amount and composition of forage for grazing animals, and also alters the partitioning and distribution of energy and heat at the land surface," said a previously published study.