Rising global temperatures may cause Siberian tundra to almost disappear, study says

Global warming is posing a potential threat to the Siberian tundra, the frozen land near the Arctic Circle, Researchers say in a new study. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Germany, designed a computer simulation of how global warming may affect the tundra – a specialized ecosystem that includes dwarf shrubs, sedges, grasses, mosses and lichens. He said the tundra could almost disappear by the middle of the millennium if temperatures continue to rise rapidly. In the best-case scenario, only 30 percent of today’s tundra could be saved, he said. This is bound to have dire consequences for the planet.

Tundra soils are rich in nitrogen and phosphorus and large amounts of biomass are stored in the frozen ground in the form of methane, which becomes a carbon sink for the planet. But due to global warming, the temperature in the Arctic is increasing rapidly. As a result, the treeline for Siberian larch forests is rapidly moving north, invading tundra biodiversity. If the tundra disappears in the coming decades, a huge carbon sink for the planet will disappear with it.

Only consistent climate protection measures would allow about 30 percent of the Siberian tundra to survive the middle of the millennium, the researchers said. In all other, less favorable scenarios, unique habitats are likely to disappear altogether. He has released his discovery in the journal elife,

“For the Arctic Ocean and sea ice, current and future warming will have dire consequences,” Professor Ulrike Herzchuh, co-author study Told. “Worst case scenario, there will be virtually no tundra left by the middle of the millennium.”

To simulate them, Prof. Herzchuh and AWI modeller Dr. Stefan Krause employed the AWI vegetation model Lavasi, which Dr. Krause said can “very realistically” depict a moving treeline in a warmer climate.

Researchers have found that larch forests can expand northward at a rate of 30 kilometers per decade and that tundra habitat, which cannot move to colder regions due to the adjacent Arctic Ocean, will rapidly decline. In most of the scenarios the researchers simulated, they found that only 6 percent of today’s tundra would remain by the middle of the millennium. If we implement aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gases, about 30 percent can be saved.

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