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Published On: Thu, Aug 23rd, 2018

Scientists bemoan plant growth in Arctic, Alaska and Canada due to global warming as a ‘disruption to the ecosystem’

Plant growth in the Arctic is not seen as a positive even though they acknowledge that it’s difficult to predict how vegetation will respond to future warming.

Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley have developed a new approach to predict more accurate picture of Arctic vegetation and our climate’s recent past – and future.

In a study published online Aug. 20 in Nature Climate Change, the researchers used satellite images taken over the past 30 years to track a fluctuation of plant growth in cold areas of the northern hemisphere, such as Alaska, the Arctic region of Canada, and the Tibetan Plateau.

The data was processed by Boston University, and is hosted on NEX – the NASA Earth Exchange data archive.

Over at Watts, they noted that “At first, the satellite data showed what they expected – that as Arctic climates warmed, tree and plant growth increased. After comparing these observations with state-of-the-art climate models developed for CMIP5 – the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 – what they discovered next surprised them.

“Their data analysis revealed that 16 percent of Earth’s vegetated land where plant growth was limited by cold temperatures three decades ago is no longer predominantly temperature-limited today, a result that was not reproduced by the CMIP5 models tested.”

“Our findings suggest that CMIP5’s predictions may have significantly underestimated changes in the Arctic ecosystem, and climate models will need to be improved to better understand and predict the future of the Arctic,” said first author Trevor Keenan, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area and an assistant professor in UC Berkeley’s department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.

“Although the greening might sound like good news as it means more carbon uptake and biomass production, it represents a major disruption to the delicate balance in cold ecosystems,” said Keenan. “Temperatures will warm sufficiently so that new species of trees could move in and compete with vegetation that had previously dominated the landscape. This change in vegetation would also affect insects and animals that relied on native vegetation for food.”

photo courtesy of The Discovery Channel

Climate changes means that things will change.

“No one has looked at high-latitude systems from this angle before as they are very complex, but they’re important as they control multiple feedbacks to the Earth system,” said co-author William Riley, a senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area.

“Now that Keenan and Riley have established a standard approach for assessing climate models, they plan to explore how they can use more advanced statistical techniques, such as machine learning, to quantify how soil organic matter properties, atmospheric carbon dioxide, wildland fires, and temperature, will affect climate in the 21st century,” Watts wrote.

About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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