Main image for Eurasian Arctic Greening, Large Scale Climate, and the Potential for Novel Ecosystems

Greening of the Tundra.
Photography courtesy of Prof. B.C. Forbes

Climate warming and vegetation greening trends are underway across northern high latitudes. This study focuses on a 50-year generalised growth response over a >100,000 km2 area in North-western Eurasia to a rise in summer temperature for the most abundant shrub genera at and north of the continental treeline (Alnusand Salix).

Biome-scale changes from treeless tundra to forest have significant implications for modelling current and future low arctic vegetation interactions with regional and global climate, and emphasise the potential for novel forested ecosystems to emerge from within the tundra zone.

Present results emerging from this work demonstrate that the relationship between climate and tundra vegetation is not limited to the ice-albedo effect but it rather depends upon large-scale climatic events occurring at lower latitudes. That is, relationships between plant productivity and sea ice are clear for late spring, but the growing season peak ultimately responds to persistent synoptic-scale air masses over West Siberia. We anticipate that, given the warm nature of North-Western Eurasian tundra within the Arctic, observed responses are likely to spread to the rest of the Arctic in the coming century.

Some papers of interest

Forbes, B., Macias-Fauria, M., Zetterberg, P. (2010) Russian Arctic warming and ‘greening’ are closely tracked by tundra shrub willows. Global Change Biology, 16: 1542–1554. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.02047.x