April 1, 2013
Arctic Region Could Soon Become Much Greener
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
"Such widespread redistribution of Arctic vegetation would have impacts that reverberate through the global ecosystem," lead author Richard Pearson, a research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History's (AMNH) Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, said in a statement Sunday.
“These impacts would extend far beyond the Arctic region. For example, some species of birds seasonally migrate from lower latitudes and rely on finding particular polar habitats, such as open space for ground-nesting,” he added.
According to the research team — which also includes scientists from AT&T Labs-Research, Woods Hole Research Center, Colgate University, Cornell University and the University of York — plant growth in the Arctic system has increased over the past few decades. That trend coincides with temperature increases that are occurring at approximately twice the average rate of the rest of the world.
Pearson and his colleagues decided to use climate scenarios for the 2050s to determine the likelihood that the trend will continue in the years ahead. They devised models to statistically predict what type of plant life would grow under specific temperature and precipitation conditions.
Their model reveals that there is the possibility that massive redistribution of Arctic vegetation could occur under future climate, with nearly half of all plant grown switching to a different class and resulting in a sizable increase in tree cover in the region.
“In addition, the researchers investigated the multiple climate change feedbacks that greening would produce,” the AMNH said. “They found that a phenomenon called the albedo effect, based on the reflectivity of the Earth's surface, would have the greatest impact on the Arctic's climate.”
“When the sun hits snow, most of the radiation is reflected back to space. But when it hits an area that's ℠dark,´ or covered in trees or shrubs, more sunlight is absorbed in the area and temperature increases. This has a positive feedback to climate warming: the more vegetation there is, the more warming will occur,” they added.